Ethics Commission Fires Back at Wolf

Story now in the Boston Hearld


Matt Stout

The state Ethics Commission struck back at Cape Air founder and gubernatorial candidate Dan Wolf in a rare public statement today, criticizing the Harwich state senator for what it called an “inaccurate” account of advice it gave him about potential conflicts of interest.

The commission, in a statement released today, disputed comments made yesterday by Wolf, who said he intended to keep his campaign going despite an Aug. 2 opinion saying he’d have to drop out and resign from the state Senate unless he divested from the airlines or severed Cape Air’s ties to Logan Airport and Massport.

In the statement, the commission said it informed Wolf in 2010 – after he was first elected to the state Senate – that he should check whether Cape Air had contracts with the state “since Mr. Wolf is not allowed to have any interests, direct or indirect, in state contracts,” according to an email it sent a Wolf aide then.

“Senator Wolf did not follow up on that advice, nor did he inform the Commission of Cape Air’s contracts with Massport,” the commission said.

Wolf, according to the commission, approached its legal staff again this year regarding his gubernatorial intentions and agreed to turn over copies of Cape Air’s contracts with Massport. He did, the commission said, but that he still forged on with his campaign before it was able to give its opinion.

“In his dealings with the Commission, Senator Wolf was never led to believe that no conflict existed; in fact, he was advised that he likely had a substantial problem under the conflict law, and that he would be given specific advice after he provided the Massport contracts,” according to the statement.

The commission’s statement is in direct odds with how Wolf described the discussions. He said yesterday that an “initial conversation” with the commission “led me to believe that no such conflict would exist” and that it echoed an informal opinion he received in 2010.

A Wold campaign spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment.

The commission normally does not comment publicly on opinions, and a spokesman just yesterday said he was barred from even confirming or denying that Wolf had sought its opinion.

Karen L. Nober, the commission’s executive director, said that its lawyers have issued roughly 50 opinions on similar matters, and that Wolf’s circumstances – including his 23 percent share of the airlines – do not fall into the “particularly narrow” set of exemptions under the state ethics law.

“The Commission most recently opined on this issue in 2011, advising a newly elected state legislator that his family business could no longer contract with the state, even though his family had contracted with the state agency for 30 years,” Nober said. “While we understand that this situation creates difficult choices for Senator Wolf, there is no basis for the Commission to give him special or different treatment.”

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