Town Harbormaster Charles Famolare III, who has been suspended since last summer while awaiting the outcome of an Ethics Commission hearing into his alleged receipt of an improper gift from a town contractor, was found to have violated the state’s conflict of interest laws by the Commission last week and was fined $2,000.
The Ethics Commission issued a Decision and Order finding that Famolare violated G.L. c. 268A, the conflict of interest law, in 2007, by receiving at no charge two finger piers (small walkways attached to a larger dock), plus free installation, from Boston Towing and Transportation, the contractor who at the time was building the approximately $2 million town pier.
The Commission also ordered Famolare to pay a $2,000 civil penalty for the infraction.
With the ruling, Town Manager James McKenna can now make a decision about whether or not to reinstate Famolare to his position as Harbormaster or terminate him as a town employee because of the violation.
The Commission also determined that the allegation that Famolare violated the conflict of interest law by receiving free cleaning of his jet-ski float from Boston Towing was not proven. Famolare has 30 days to pay the civil penalty or file an appeal with the Superior Court.
On Monday, McKenna said that he is not ready to comment about the ruling or Famolare‘s position in town.
“The state took 13 months to make its decision about this case,” said McKenna. “I will take an appropriate amount of time to determine the town’s position and act accordingly.”
For his part, Famolare also chose to withhold comment about his employment status, though he was obviously disappointed in the ruling.
“Before I say anything, I need to give Jim McKenna the respect and time he needs to make his decision,” said Famolare.
In making its ruling, the commission essentially took Famolare to task for not doing enough to ensure that the work that Boston Towing did at his personal pier, at the behest of his personal friend, was paid for by that friend.
According to the Decision, “ Famolare created a situation rife with potential conflicts of interest by allowing a major Town contractor with whom he had official dealings to perform work at his residence, his failure to ask about payment for the piers or confirm payment by (the friend) was at best willful blindness to the conflict of interest risk inherent in his situation.” The Decision further states, “unwarranted privilege of substantial value, given for or because of a public employee’s official position and actions, does not cease to be such because the recipient accepts it without asking any questions.”
According to the state’s conflict law, a municipal employee is prohibited from knowingly, or with reason to know, using his/her official position to secure for himself/herself or others unwarranted privileges of substantial value not available to similarly situated individuals. In the Decision, the Commission stated that a public employee does not have to take official action in order to use his official position, and accepting what one knows or has reason to know is being given to one because of one’s official position is in itself the use of one’s official position. The Commission concluded that, by accepting the free provision and installation of the finger piers from Town contractor Boston Towing, Famolare knowingly, or with reason to know, used his official position to secure unwarranted privileges of substantial value not properly available to similarly situated individuals in violation of section 23(b)(2).
The Ethics Reform Law of 2009 increased the maximum amounts of the civil penalties that may be imposed by the Commission. Violations of the conflict law that occurred prior to September 29, 2009 remain subject to a maximum civil penalty of $2,000 per violation.