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|Written by Gillian Smith|
|Wednesday, 25 September 2013 11:29|
Members of town committees and municipal organizations gathered Thursday evening at Town Hall for conflict-of-interest training.
The State Ethics Commission gave a presentation for committee members, detailing the dos and don’ts of being a committee member.
The State Ethics Commission is a five-member, independent, non-partisan agency that provides advice, education and enforcement of the Massachusetts General Laws 268A and 268B. The conflict-of-interest training applies to all state, county and municipal employees, including volunteers, full-time, part-time or intermittent workers. The training is required to be renewed every two years.
One of the areas touched upon in the meeting was accepting gifts. According to the Commission, bribery includes gifts, offers and promises to influence official acts. Gifts and gratuities include “gifts of substantial value given for or because of official acts performed or to be performed.”
Prohibited gifts include a “connection to an official act” and “because of official position.” Employees may not accept a gift worth more than $50. The Standards of Conduct prohibit gifts valued at less than $50 if the receipt of the gift creates the appearance that the public employee could be improperly influenced in the performance of duties.
The training also covered nepotism, which referres to the fact that a municipal employee cannot participate in activities in which the employee, immediate family, partner or business organization has certain affiliations.
Also discussed was the need to abstain from discussions or votes. The presentation discussed three possible actions a municipal employee may take if he or she feels should abstain: remain at the table but do not participate in discussion, leave the table and sit in the audience, or leave the room. The best course of action is to leave the room entirely.
Additionally, a municipal employee may not have a financial interest in a contract in which the town is an interested party, such as contracts to provide goods or services. There are also restrictions on appointments. Board members are ineligible for appointment to positions supervised by their board until 30 days after they resign from the board. Municipal employees who also serve on the Board of Selectmen are ineligible for any other municipal appointment while a selectman and for six months thereafter.
When in doubt, members are advised to remove themselves from the rooms in which meetings are occurring where they may have a conflict of interest. Municipal employees are invited to call 617-371-9500 or visit mass.gov/ethics if they have further questions.