|Organization:||State Ethics Commission|
Settlement In the Matter of Massachusetts Medical Society
Table of Contents
This Disposition Agreement ("Agreement") is entered into between the State Ethics Commission ("Commission") and the Massachusetts Medical Society ("Mass. Medical") pursuant to s.5 of the Commission's Enforcement Procedures. This Agreement constitutes a consented to final Commission order enforceable in the Superior Court, pursuant to G.L. c. 268B, s.4(j).
On July 12, 1994, the Commission initiated, pursuant to G.L. c. 268B, s.4(a), a preliminary inquiry into allegations that Mass. Medical had violated the conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A. The Commission has concluded the inquiry and, on September 27, 1994, voted to find reasonable cause to believe that Mass. Medical violated G.L. c. 268A, s.3.
The Commission and Mass. Medical now agree to the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:
1. Mass. Medical is the oldest continuously operating medical society in the country, having been incorporated by the Massachusetts Legislature in 1781. The purpose of the Society is to advance medical knowledge, to support professional and ethical medical standards and to promote the health and well being of the citizens of the Commonwealth.
2. Mass. Medical is a non-profit corporation whose membership is made up of physicians, residents and medical students who primarily reside or have professional activity in Massachusetts. Mass. Medical is governed by a 524 member House of Delegates and a 32 member Board of Trustees. Mass. Medical has an elected president who serves a one-year term. Mass. Medical currently has 15,251 members, most of whom pay annual dues.
3. The medical profession in Massachusetts is subject to many state laws. Numerous bills are filed in the Massachusetts Legislature each year potentially affecting the medical profession and the public health.1 Mass. Medical monitors proposed laws potentially affecting the medical profession and the public health, and frequently seeks to promote, oppose or otherwise influence such legislation.
4. Mass. Medical has many committees and departments through which it advances the practice of medicine. During the period here relevant, Mass. Medical had a Government Relations Department which was responsible for monitoring Massachusetts legislation of interest to Mass. Medical's members and presenting Mass. Medical's position on such proposed laws to members of the Legislature.
5. Mass. Medical employed lobbyists, including Andrew Hunt ("Hunt"), who was, at all times here relevant, a Massachusetts registered legislative agent for Mass. Medical. He was assigned to the Government Relations Department and functioned as a full- time lobbyist for Mass. Medical in dealing with the Massachusetts Legislature. In this role, he tracked health care legislation of interest to Mass. Medical, coordinated testimony and presentations to legislative committees, and met with various legislators and their staff.
6. In order to effectively present Mass. Medical's position on legislation to state legislators, Hunt developed and maintained personal relationships with legislators and their staff people. These personal relationships ensured that Hunt would have access to these government officials so that Mass. Medical's position on proposed laws could be presented.
7. During the period here relevant, one way in which Hunt created strong, personal relationships with Massachusetts legislators was by providing them with free meals and drinks, golf, and other gratuities. These gratuities created and/or fostered goodwill and personal relationships between the public officials and Hunt which, in turn, enhanced Hunt's access to the public officials.
8. During the period here relevant, Hunt submitted a monthly expense report to Mass. Medical listing each of his expenses by amount, date and by reference to a general description of the nature of the expense, such as "medical malpractice" or "medicare." The reports, however, failed to identify who was entertained. In any event, Mass. Medical paid for all of these expenses.
9. Hunt has refused to now identify who was entertained.
10. Between July 1989 and April 1993, Hunt provided individual Massachusetts legislators with meals, golf and other entertainment worth $50 or more on numerous occasions. The value of this entertainment was approximately $15,000.2 Examples of such entertainment are as follows.
a. From December 8 to December 14, 1992, Hunt was in Puerto Rico. There was a Council of State Governments ("CSG") conference being held in San Juan at the time. Hunt stayed at the Las Palmas del Mar Resort on the southern coast of Puerto Rico with several legislators and a number of Massachusetts lobbyists. On December 13, 1992, Hunt and another Massachusetts lobbyist went on a fishing excursion with two representatives and their spouses. For that purpose, Hunt and the other lobbyist chartered a 40- foot fishing vessel with a captain and one-member crew. The boat trip lasted several hours and included deep sea fishing, a stop for snorkeling, and a box lunch. The cost of chartering the boat was $766, split equally between Hunt and the other lobbyist. Thus, Hunt provided each legislator and his spouse with entertainment at a cost to him of $128 per couple.
b. Between March 10 and March 15, 1993, Hunt stayed at the Plantation Resort at Amelia Island, Florida, where an educational conference sponsored by the Conference of Insurance Legislators ("COIL") ran from March 11th to March 14th. Hunt stayed at the Plantation Resort with a number of Massachusetts legislators and lobbyists. During his stay, Hunt paid a total of $240 in greens fees for three Massachusetts legislators. (The cost of each greens fee was approximately $80.)
11. Section 3(a) of G.L. c. 268A prohibits anyone from, directly or indirectly, giving a state employee anything of substantial value for or because of any official act performed or to be performed by the state employee.
12. Massachusetts legislators and their staff are state employees.
13. Anything with a value of $50 or more is of substantial value for s.3 purposes.3
14. By giving individual Massachusetts legislators or their staff gratuities worth $50 or more while each such legislator or staff member was, recently had been, or soon would be in a position to take official action concerning proposed legislative matters which could affect the financial or other interests of Mass. Medical's members, Mass. Medical's legislative agent gave those legislators and their staff members gifts of substantial value for or because of acts within their official responsibility performed or to be performed by them. As a corporation, Mass. Medical acts through and is responsible for the conduct of its employees. Because it is responsible for the conduct of its legislative agent, Mass. Medical violated G.L. c. 268A, s.3(a).4
15. The Commission is not aware of any evidence that (a) Mass. Medical gave any of the foregoing gratuities to legislators with the intent to influence any specific official act by them as legislators; or (b) that the legislators in return for the gratuities took any official action concerning any proposed legislation which would have affected Mass. Medical. In other words, the Commission is not aware of a quid pro quo. Even if the conduct of Mass. Medical was only intended to create goodwill, it was still impermissible.
16. Mass. Medical, through its current officers, has cooperated with the Commission in its investigation.5 In view of the foregoing violations of G.L. c. 268A, s.3(a), 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 Mass. Medical:
(1) that Mass. Medical pay to the Commission the sum of forty-five thousand dollars ($45,000) as a civil fine for violating G.L. c. 268A, s.3(a); and
(2) that Mass. Medical waives all rights to contest the findings of fact, conclusions of law and terms and conditions contained in this agreement in any related administrative or judicial proceeding to which the Commission is or may be a party.