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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Friday, May 23, 2008

It doesn't look good

Massachusetts law is pretty clear when it comes to setting down the standards of conduct for public employees when it comes to matters in which friends or family could have an interest:
Section 23. (a) In addition to the other provisions of this chapter, and in supplement thereto, standards of conduct, as hereinafter set forth, are hereby established for all state, county and municipal employees. ...

(3) act in a manner which would cause a reasonable person, having knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to conclude that any person can improperly influence or unduly enjoy his favor in the performance of his official duties, or that he is likely to act or fail to act as a result of kinship, rank, position or undue influence of any party or person. It shall be unreasonable to so conclude if such officer or employee has disclosed in writing to his appointing authority or, if no appointing authority exists, discloses in a manner which is public in nature, the facts which would otherwise lead to such a conclusion.
Which means House Speaker Sal DiMasi has a major problem on his hands:

Boston contractor Jay Cashman met privately last fall with House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi in a bid to ease permitting rules for wind farms in Massachusetts waters, a meeting that appears to contradict DiMasi's earlier assertion that he never spoke with Cashman, a close friend, about legislation affecting Cashman's business.

Asked last week about Cashman's previously undisclosed presence at the Oct. 18 meeting in DiMasi's State House office, DiMasi confirmed that Cashman was there, but said that they did not specifically discuss Cashman's pending plan to build a wind farm on Buzzards Bay and that he never influenced legislation to help Cashman. In addition to being close friends with the speaker, Cashman has a business relationship with DiMasi's wife, Deborah DiMasi.

DiMasi says he is OK because he has disclosed his relationship with Cashman. But the ethics laws deals not only of actual conflicts of interest, but also appearances of a conflict. Let's recall some specifics words of the law:
...act in a manner which would cause a reasonable person, having knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to conclude that any person can improperly influence or unduly enjoy his favor in the performance of his official duties...
Relationships have to not only survive the fact test, they have to survive the sniff test. Reasonable people having knowledge of the relevant circumstances surrounding the relationship between DiMasi and Cashman might be forgiven for sniffing a few extra times over this one.

That's especially true if the Speaker is now backing away from his initial answer by saying he only meant to say they never discussed business in a social setting.

New England Cable News should certainly understand the appearance issue in its decision to host a regular program created by DiMasi's spouses, particularly since there has been a refusal to disclose the financial underpinnings of the program.

Appearances count. And things are not looking terribly good right now.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous kyledeb said...

Great post describing the problems with DiMasi's meeting here. The way you lay it out here, it's pretty clear.

May 23, 2008 10:30 AM  

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