Conflict of Interest Law for Municipal Employees

Introduction

Chapter 28 of the Acts of 2009, the recently enacted ethics reform law, imposes new mandatory education and training requirements on public employers and public employees.  The law authorizes the Commission to establish procedures to implement and ensure compliance with these requirements, and these Implementation Procedures are issued pursuant to that authority.  The new requirements can be summarized as follows:  Every state, county, and municipal employee must be given a summary of the conflict of interest law prepared by the Ethics Commission and must complete an online training program prepared by the Commission.   Every municiaplity must designate a liaison to the Commission.  All records of compliance with these requirements must be retained for 6 years.  These new requirements apply to all public employees, as defined by the conflict of interest law and described below, except that these procedures establish exemptions from the online training requirement for certain categories of employees (See Section 2.a. below).  These requirements also apply to regional public entities, as discussed below.

Summary of the Conflict of Interest Law for Municipal Employees with Acknowledgement Form

Mandatory Training Requirements Provided By The State of Massachusetts

Summaries, Online Training, and Implementation Procedures

Summary of the Conflict of Interest Law for Municipal Employees

By December 28, 2009, and on an annual basis thereafter, all current municipal employees must be provided with this summary of the conflict of interest law. Municipal employees hired after December 28, 2009, should be provided with the summary within 30 days of the date on which they commence employment, and on an annual basis thereafter. Every municipal employee is required to sign a written acknowledgment that he has been provided with the summary.

By April 2, 2010, and every 2 years thereafter, all current state, county and municipal employees must complete this training. Public employees hired after April 2, 2010 must complete this training within 30 days of beginning public service, and every 2 years thereafter. This training is designed primarily for state employees. County and municipal employees should also use this training until it is revised with one tailored to them. Upon completing the program, employees should print out the completion certificate and keep a copy for themselves. Employees will be required to provide a copy of the completion certificate to the Town or City Clerk (municipal employees), their employing agency (appointed state and county employees), or to the Ethics Commission (elected state and county employees). Completing the single program will be considered by the Commission as meeting the Bill's training requirements until a second program is added. When multiple users attempt to complete the current training program using the same computer they may experience a problem accessing the beginning of the program. The user will need to open their internet browser, click on "Tools", then "Internet Options", select "Delete Cookies", then click "OK". The user will be able to click back on the Online Training module on the Commission's website and start at the beginning.

This summary of the conflict of interest law, General Laws chapter 268A, is intended to help municipal employees understand how that law applies to them. This summary is not a substitute for legal advice, nor does it mention every aspect of the law that may apply in a particular situation. Municipal employees can obtain free confidential advice about the conflict of interest law from the Commission’s Legal Division at our website, phone number, and address above. Municipal counsel may also provide advice.

The conflict of interest law seeks to prevent conflicts between private interests and public duties, foster integrity in public service, and promote the public’s trust and confidence in that service by placing restrictions on what municipal employees may do on the job, after hours, and after leaving public service, as described below. The sections referenced below are sections of G.L. c. 268A.

When the Commission determines that the conflict of interest law has been violated, it can impose a civil penalty of up to $10,000 ($25,000 for bribery cases) for each violation. In addition, the Commission can order the violator to repay any economic advantage he gained by the violation, and to make restitution to injured third parties. Violations of the conflict of interest law can also be prosecuted criminally.~

This summary is not intended to be legal advice and, because it is a summary, it does not mention every provision of the conflict law that may apply in a particular situation

The Commission is committed to working with those affected by the law to implement it as efficiently as possible.  Questions about these procedures may be directed to the Commission's Legal Division by calling (617) 351-9500, or submitted electronically on their website.  In addition, the Commission invites suggestions for improvements to these procedures.  Such suggestions may be made to David Giannotti, the Commission's Chief of the Public Education and Communications Division at the following email address:  dgiannotti@eth.state.ma.us