|Organization:||State Ethics Commission|
Settlement In the Matter of Joan Anderson
The State Ethics Commission and Joan Anderson ("Anderson") enter into this Disposition Agreement pursuant to Section 5 of the Commission's Enforcement Procedures. This Agreement constitutes a consented-to final order enforceable in the Superior Court, pursuant to G.L. c. 268B, section 4(j).
On July 25, 2007, the Commission initiated, pursuant to G.L. c. 268B, section 4(a), a preliminary inquiry into possible violations of the conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A, by Anderson. The Commission concluded its inquiry and, on November 15, 2007, found reasonable cause to believe that Anderson violated G.L. c. 268A.
The Commission and Anderson now agree to the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.
Findings of Fact
1. At all times relevant, Anderson was a Westminster Conservation Commission ("Con Com") member. Con Com members are appointed by the Board of Selectmen.
2. Until recently, Anderson owned Brook Bound Nursery, a nursery and garden supply store in Westminster. Anderson's husband, Jeffrey, is the president, treasurer and secretary of Landscaping by Anderson, Inc.
3. Robert Francis ("Francis") is an individual who resides in Westminster and has significant interests in the following companies: American Drilling Services, Inc., Crocker Pond Properties, Inc., and Whitman River Dam, Inc. He is also a beneficiary, but not a trustee, of the M&R Nominee Trust (the "Trust").
4. Between 1996 and 2000, Francis, personally and acting on behalf of American Drilling Services, Inc. and the Trust, hired Landscaping by Anderson, Inc., and Anderson d/b/a Brook Bound Nursery for various projects at a total cost of approximately $150,000.
5. In 1999, the Andersons purchased property from M&R Nominee Trust. Francis negotiated the deal on behalf of the Trust.
6. In 2002, the Andersons entered into an agreement to purchase another parcel of land owned by the Trust. Francis again negotiated the deal on behalf of the Trust. Francis requested to terminate the deal and the Andersons agreed provided their attorney's fees were reimbursed. Francis eventually reimbursed the fees, but not until some time after September 2003.
7. Also in 2002, Whitman River Dam, Inc. and Crocker Pond Properties, Inc. purchased approximately 937 acres of undeveloped land near Crocker Pond and around the Whitmanville Reservoir.
8. The Westminster Con Com has jurisdiction over the rivers, ponds, wetlands and dams that are located on these 937 acres.
9. A portion of these 937 acres (the "Whitmanville Reservoir parcel") is directly across the street from the Andersons' residence on South Ashburnham Road in Westminster.
10. Another portion is located near Crocker Pond (the "Crocker Pond parcel"), which is approximately two miles from the Andersons' residence.
11. Beginning in 2003, Whitman River Dam, Inc. sought from the Con Com Orders of Conditions to allow construction and improvement activities on the Whitmanville Reservoir parcel.
12. Anderson in her capacity as a Con Com member discussed, voted on and signed Con Com Orders of Conditions related to the construction and improvement activities on the Whitmanville Reservoir parcel. More specifically, in her capacity as a Con Com member, Anderson signed the following documents concerning that parcel:
a) an Order of Conditions dated July 28, 2003; and
b) an Order of Conditions dated September 29, 2003.
13. In addition, Anderson in her capacity as a Con Com member discussed, voted on and signed Con Com Orders of Conditions related to the construction and improvement activities on the Crocker Pond parcel. As a Con Com member, Anderson signed the following documents concerning that parcel:
a) an Order of Conditions dated March 19, 2003;
b) an Order of Conditions dated January 29, 2004; and
c) an Order of Conditions dated February 9, 2004.
Conclusions of Law
14. As a Westminster Conservation Commission member, Anderson was a municipal employee as defined by G.L. c. 268A, section 1(g).
15. At all times relevant, Anderson's husband, Jeffrey Anderson, was Anderson's immediate family member as defined by G.L. c. 268A, section 1(g).
16. Section 19 prohibits a municipal employee from participating as such in a particular matter in which, to her knowledge, she or an immediate family member has a financial interest.
17. The Con Com's determinations regarding the aforementioned Orders of Conditions affecting the Whitmanville Reservoir parcel were particular matters.
18. Anderson participated as a Con Com member in these particular matters by discussing and voting on them at Con Com meetings. She also participated in these particular matters by signing the July 28, 2003 and September 29, 2003 Orders of Conditions.
19. At the time she so participated, Anderson knew that she and her husband owned property abutting the Whitmanville Reservoir parcel.
20. As abutters, Anderson and her husband are presumed to have a financial interest in these particular matters; and consequently, they are also presumed to have knowledge of that financial interest. 
21. Therefore, Anderson violated section 19 by participating as described above as a Con Com member in particular matters in which, to her knowledge, she and her husband had financial interests.
Section 23 (b)(3)
22. Section 23(b)(3) of G.L. c. 268A prohibits a public employee from knowingly or with reason to know acting in a manner which would cause a reasonable person, having knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to conclude that any person can improperly influence or unduly enjoy her favor in the performance of her official duties, or that she is likely to act or fail to act as a result of kinship, rank, position or undue influence of any party or person.
23. As described above in paragraphs 12 and 13 above, Anderson repeatedly participated as a Con Com member in matters affecting Francis or his companies after she and her husband had a significant business relationship with Francis. This official participation occurred after Anderson and her husband's companies provided approximately $150,000 worth of supplies and services to Francis personally and to American Drilling Services, Inc. and the Trust.
24. In addition, Anderson participated in her capacity as a Con Com member in matters affecting Francis or his companies after Francis, on behalf of the Trust, and the Andersons engaged in two separate real estate transactions. One of these transactions resulted in a dispute over an agreement regarding legal fees that remained ongoing while Anderson participated in the Con Com's September, 2003, Order of Conditions.
25. By so participating, Anderson acted in a manner which would cause a reasonable person, knowing all the relevant circumstances, to conclude that Francis can improperly influence the performance of her official duties. Therefore, Anderson violated section 23(b)(3).
In view of the foregoing violations of G.L. c. 268A by Anderson, the Commission has determined that the public interest would be served by the disposition of this matter without further enforcement proceedings, on the basis of the following terms and conditions agreed to by Anderson:
(1) that Anderson pay to the Commission the sum of $2,000 as a civil penalty for violating G.L. c. 268A sections 19 & 23; and
(2) that Anderson waive all rights to contest, in this or any other administrative or judicial proceeding to which the Commission is or may be a party, the findings of fact, conclusions of law and terms and conditions contained in this Agreement.