Ethics Commission: You don’t need financial interest to violate conflict of interest law

Many, both in the press and on the left have said that the Ethic’s Commission won’t find Patrick guilty of having violated ethics law.  Their main argument is that the Governor had no financial interest in the Citigroup phone call. The Boston Herald had this to say:

Patrick was asked to make the call by Ameriquest lawyer Adam Bass, who contributed the maximum $500 to his gubernatorial campaign.

The phone call raised ethical questions because Citigroup has substantial business interests in state government and manages millions of dollars in bonds for independent agencies such as the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.

Patrick reiterated that he had no financial interest in the Ameriquest deal,….

…. A spokesman for Patrick dismissed the complaint as a partisan attack. “We’re not surprised by the Republican Party’s political grandstanding,” spokesman Kyle Sullivan said. “We are confident that there was no ethical violation.”

But the Ethics Commission has repeatedly held that you don’t need a personal financial interest for it to rise to unethical standards.

For example in The Matter of John Dewald Finance Committee member Dewald entered into an agreement admitting his ethical lapse regarding asking for a favor for a friend who was a fellow attorney.  The summary of the enforcement action from the Ethic’s Commission 2006 enforcement action webpage is below.

The Commission issued a Disposition Agreement in which Rockland Finance Committee member John DeWald admitted violating the state’s conflict of interest law. DeWald used his position to attempt to persuade a town attorney to settle a default foreclosure of property. DeWald agreed to pay a civil penalty of $2,000. DeWald, an attorney, violated G.L. c. 268A, § 17(c) and 23(b)(2) when he contacted Rockland tax title attorney Laura Powers at the request of attorney Sandy Lederman. Lederman, who is a friend of DeWald, represented Ken Crosby whose eight-acre parcel was taken through default foreclosure by the town. According to the Disposition Agreement, in a phone call in January 2005, DeWald introduced himself as the chairman of the Finance Committee and tried to convince Powers to settle the case for back taxes and attorney fees. Powers, who felt pressured by DeWald’s call, declined to do so, stating that the town wanted to keep the land.

In the Matter of Paul Zakrzewski, Abington Assesor Zakrzewski agreed to a $1000 fine for participating in abatement proceedings involving a business partner.  Zakrzewski had no financial interest in the properties in question.

The Commission issued a Disposition Agreement in which Abington Assessor Paul Zakrzewski admitted violating the state’s conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A by participating in matters involving his partner, Roger Woods, also of Abington, and paid a civil penalty of $1,000. According to the Disposition Agreement, Zakrzewski, an elected Assessor, voted to approve four abatement applications filed by Woods. The abatements resulted in first-year tax savings to Woods of over $5,600. At the time of each of these votes, Zakrzewski and Woods were real estate partners, although they were not partners in the properties that were subjects of the abatement applications and Zakrzewski himself had no interest in any of these applications. By participating in the abatement applications of his partner, Zakrzewski violated section 19.

In the Matter of Kevin Joyce Boston Inspectional Services Divison Commissioner Joyce was found to have violated ethics laws because he tried to get a friends company work for the department, by trying to have a subordinate obtain two inflated estimates for work.

The Commission fined former Boston Inspectional Services Department (ISD) Commissioner Kevin Joyce $5,000 for violating the state’s conflict of interest law by demoting, then firing a subordinate when she refused, as Joyce directed, to get two quotes higher than one previously received from a company where a friend of his was employed. During fall 2000, ISD selected Tekinsight.com, Inc. to update the mayorsfoodcourt website operated by ISD. TekInsight assigned its employee Melissa Fetzer, a friend of Joyce, to work on the project. When Joyce learned that the update would not be funded under a citywide contract, he directed Principal Administrative Assistant Julie Fothergill to obtain two quotes higher than $7,900, the amount sought by TekInsight for the update, in order to secure payment for Fetzer and/or TekInsight. In January 2001, after Fothergill did not obtain the quotes Joyce requested, Joyce transferred her to the ISD Legal Division where she was assigned an office with no phone or computer. Later in January, Fothergill notified Joyce through her attorneys that she intended to file a civil suit against Joyce and the City for the demotion. In February 2001, Joyce transferred her out of the ISD Legal Division into the Planning Zoning Division. In May 2001, Joyce terminated Fothergill. By demoting and terminating Fothergill for disobeying his orders to commit illegal actions by getting two quotes higher than the amount sought by TekInsight, rather than on the merits of her work performance, Joyce used his ISD position to obtain an unwarranted privilege in violation of § 23(b)(2). The City of Boston paid Fothergill $240,000 to settle her wrongful termination suit in September 2003. Joyce resigned as ISD Commissioner in April 2004 following the release of a report from the Boston Finance Committee finding Joyce responsible for Fothergill’s wrongful termination, costing the City over $400,000, as well as numerous administrative failures in contract and personnel matters.

There are many more than these first three examples.  They can be found here

I think those that are pinning their hopes for the Governor on the fact that he had no financial stake in the deal, may be in for a surprise.

About Rob "EaBo Clipper" Eno