Nadeau intervened as Building Inspector
in work performed at his neighbors’ home
Amesbury Building Inspector Denis Nadeau paid a $3,500 civil penalty after admitting to violating the conflict of interest law by intervening in his official capacity as building inspector in work performed at the home of his next-door neighbors, with whom he had a longstanding private dispute.
The State Ethics Commission on March 29 approved a disposition agreement in which Nadeau admitted to violating the conflict of interest law, waived his right to contest the Commission’s finding, and agreed to pay the civil penalty.
According to the agreement, Nadeau was involved in a contentious private dispute with his neighbors when he committed the violations. In or about October 2014, Nadeau entered his neighbors’ property in his role as building inspector to question a landscaper who was planting trees. He ordered the work to cease until a Dig Safe inspection could be conducted, delaying the landscaping work for more than an hour. In a previous incident, Nadeau had also entered his neighbors’ property in his role as building inspector to question the installation of a security camera.
According to the agreement, Nadeau violated two sections of the conflict of interest law. Under Section 19, a public employee is generally prohibited from participating in matters in which he knows he has a financial interest. Nadeau knew he had a financial interest as an abutting property owner in his actions as building inspector concerning his neighbors’ tree-planting, and thus violated Section 19 by taking those actions. Nadeau also violated Section 23(b)(3), which addresses appearances of bias or undue influence in official actions, because someone aware of the ongoing disputes between Nadeau and his neighbors would reasonably have concluded that Nadeau would likely act unfavorably toward them as building inspector when he intervened in their tree-planting and questioned their security camera installer.
The State Ethics Commission is charged with enforcing the conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A. When the Commission’s five members vote to find reasonable cause to believe a public employee has violated the law, it can also authorize adjudicatory proceedings against the employee. The public employee can then enter into a public disposition agreement rather than exercise his right to a hearing.
The Commission encourages public employees to contact the Commission’s Legal Division at 617-371-9500 for free advice if they have any questions regarding how the conflict of interest law may apply to them.