MacDonald recommended his son for appointment as full-time police officer
Dighton Police Chief Robert MacDonald has paid a $7,000 civil penalty after admitting to violating the conflict of interest law by participating in his son’s appointment as a full-time police officer.
The State Ethics Commission on May 17 approved a disposition agreement in which MacDonald admitted to violating two sections of the conflict of interest law, waived his right to contest the Commission’s findings, and agreed to pay the civil penalty.
According to the disposition agreement, in 2015 MacDonald recommended that the Board of Selectmen hire his son, then a reserve officer, as a full-time police officer. At the time, the established practice of the Dighton Police Department was to post openings for full-time positions internally and have interested candidates submit letters of intent. Dighton had two openings for full-time police officers in July 2015. Instead of posting the positions, MacDonald directed a member of his command staff to call the 11 individuals on the reserve officer list to inquire about their interest in the open positions. At least six reserve officers expressed interest in the positions, but their interest was not documented in letters of intent, a departure from the Dighton Police Department’s established practices. No interviews were conducted for the full-time officer positions.
The Board of Selectmen is the hiring authority for the Police Department. As Police Chief, MacDonald personally recommended his son and another reserve officer for appointment to the two full-time officer positions. The Selectmen followed MacDonald’s recommendation.
Section 19 of the conflict of interest law prohibits municipal employees from participating in their official capacity in matters in which they know they or their immediate family members have a financial interest. According to the disposition agreement, MacDonald violated Section 19 when he decided not to post the open positions and recommended that the Board of Selectmen hire his son.
According to the disposition agreement, MacDonald also violated Section 23(b)(2)(ii) of the conflict of interest law, which prohibits municipal employees from using their public positions to secure unwarranted benefits for themselves or others. The disposition agreement states that MacDonald violated Section 23(b)(2)(ii) by using his position as Police Chief to secure his son’s appointment as a full-time officer without posting the position or documenting the interest of other reserve officers.
The State Ethics Commission is charged with enforcing the conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A. When at least three of the Commission’s five members vote to find reasonable cause to believe a public employee has violated the law, they can also authorize adjudicatory proceedings to determine whether the violation occurred. The public employee then has the opportunity to enter into a public disposition agreement rather than exercising his or her right to a hearing.
The Commission encourages public employees to contact the Commission’s Legal Division at 617-963-9500 for free advice if they have any questions regarding how the conflict of interest law may apply to them.