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COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS STATE ETHICS COMMISSION SUFFOLK. s. COMMISSICN ADJUDICATORY DOCKET NO. 14- 400% INTHE MATTER oF PETER SKORPUT ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE 1. The State Bahes Commission (“Commission is authorized by GL. 268 10 enforce C.L . 268A, the state confit of interest law and in that regard, to inate and conduct ajudicatory proceedings 2. On January 23,2019, the Commission (a) found resonable cause to believe that Peter Skorput (“Skorput") violated GL 268A, §§ 19,20, and 23, and () authorized the init tion of adjudicatory proceedings. FACTS Storput's Two Menicipal Pesitions 3. Skorput, a resident of West Stockbridge, was during the relevant time the chiet of the West Stockbridge Fie Department (*WSFD"), As such, Skorput was a ‘municipal employee as that erm is defined in GL. c. 268A, 81. 4. The WSFD Fire Chiefs appointed toa three-year xm by the West Stockbridge Select Board 5. InMay 2013, Skorpu was elected othe Selet Board 6. sof the 2010 census, West Stockbridge's population was 1,306 7. Asie Chief, Skorput received a single yearly payment called a“Fire- person's Incentive 8 Selec Board members receive «biannual stipend 9. On May22, 2013, the West Stockbridge Town Administrative Assistant contacted Town Counsel regarding, in part, exemptions available to Skorput regarding his ‘ual positions as Fite Chef and Select Board member under the conflict of interest law. 10, On May 30,2013, Town Counsel sent an email tothe Town Administrative Assistant *May 30, 2013 email") which stated that a § 20(2 exemption ‘would allow Skorput to accept pay as both Fire Chief and Selet Board member. Town ‘Counsel advised that Skorpt “follow the requirements forte exemption and she attached a §20(8) exemption form the ema 11, ‘The Town Administrative Assistant shared the contents of Town Counsel's May 30,2013 email to Skorpat. 12, As of fanuary 9, 2017, Skorput had not ied any conflict of interest law disclosures with the Town Clee, had not obtsined a§ 20() exemption and, was notin ‘compliance with the requirements ofthe Selectmen's exemption. 13, From June 2013 to January 2017, Skorput acepted both Fire-peson's Incentive and Select Board membes's stipends a follows: in Fiscal Year 2014, Skorpat scoped $1172.22 as Select Board member nd $500 as Fire Chief in Fiscal Year 2015, he received $2,200 as Select Board member and $400 as Fite Chief; and in Fiscal Year 2016, he received $2,000 as Select Board member and $500 as Fire Chef. 14, During this same time period, Skorput acted a a Select Board member on ‘matters within the purview ofthe WSFD by signing warrants to pay Fire-person's Incentives and other WSFD expenses tht he requested payment of 3s Fite Chief Pantcipation in his owr reappointment and awarding stipends to himself his daughter and his nephew 15, On June 17, 2013, the Select Board voted on the renewal of Skorput’s ‘contract as Fire Chief 16, a Select Board member, participated in the vote and voted in 17, All members ofthe WSFD receive a Fte-person’s Incentive, 18. Skorput,as Fire Chi Fire-person’s Incentives for each firefighter including himself 18, Inorabout December 2013, 2014, and 2015, as Fite Chief, Skorput, unilterally decided the amount of his own Fire-prsons Incentive. He then signed and submited a ils payable schedule regarding these Fite-person's Incentives othe Select, Board for payment. 20, Onorabout January 9, 2017, Skorput filed a§ 19 confit of interest disclosure form related w his own Fire-person’s Incentive with the Select Board, 21, Tricia Skorput ("Tricia") is Skorput's daughter. 22, From approximately 2011 to 2015, Tricia was a member ofthe WSFD. 23. In or about December 2013 and 2014, as Fire Chief, Skorput urilaterally Aecided the amounts ofthe Fire-person's Incentive for Tricia. He then signed and submited a bills payable schedule regarding these Fite-person’s Incentive to the Select Board for payment 24, Ato time did Skorput file @ conflict of interest disclosure related to his daughter and her Fire-person’s Incentives. 25. William Cooper is Skorput’s nephew. 26, _Atall times relevant to this matter, Cooper was a member of the WSFD. 27. Inorabout December 2013, 2014, and 2015, as Fire Chiel, Skorput ‘unilaterally decided on the amounts of the Fire-person’s Incentive for his nephew. He then signed and submitted a bills payable schedule regarding these Fire-person's Incentives tothe Select Board for payment 28. Ato time did Skorput file any conflict of interest disclosures relating to Cooper and his Fire-person’s Incentives. 29. In December 2013 and 2014, Skorput, as Select Board member, signed ‘warrants for payments including Fire-person's Incentives for his daughter and nephew. Participation and Retaliation Regarding Complains Against Him 30. On October 5, 2015, Town Custodian Dominic Lach CLuchi) appeared the Select Boar. Luci voice ericism shout Skorput’s performance as Fire Chi. ‘Skorput didnot recuse himself from participating in the matter asa Select Board member. ‘Skorput, while siting atthe Select Board members’ table, verbally responded to Luchi’s complaints 31. _Luchi submitted writen questions tothe Select Board regarding whethe: 4. Skorput participated in hi appointment as Fire Chief; 4 b. Skorput decided amount of firefighter stipends for himself; and © Skorput ated as Select Board member regarding firefighter stipends for himself and imnediste family 32, _Atthe October 26,2015 Select Board meeting, Luchi sppeared and further iscussed his concems about Skorput. Skorpu did not recuse himself from patcipating inthe mater asa Selet Board member. Skorput while siting at he Select Board ‘members’ table, responded to Luch’s complain 33. _Atboth the November? and 9, 2015 Selet Board meetings, the Select Board members discussed Luchi’s concems. Skorput did not reeuse himself From participating as Seleet Board member inthe discussions. 34. Atthe November 9,2015 Select Board meeting, the Chair moved to close the matter of Luehi's complaint and Skorput participated inthe vote. 35. In 2016, James Hallock (“Hallock”), a wenty-five-year veteran firefighter, was lieutenant inthe WSFD. 36. tthe February 8, 2016 Select Board mecting, Hallock submited a written ‘complaint regarding Skoruts performance as chief, Skorpu as Select Board member, stated that he was “insulted with the exaggerations and is” by Hallock who was “sling him inte back because he Wants to become Fire Chief" 37. Apgroximately twenty-four minutes ale the February 8, 2016 Select, Board meeting adjoured, Skorput sent a txt message to Hallock that read, “Tur in your gear” 38. On February 26, 206, Hallock was summoned toa meeting ofthe WSFD ‘membership. Thereafter, Skorp terminated Hallock from the WSFD, 39, In February or March 2016, Skorpt consulted Town Counsel o ask “whether the Towa’s non-ealation policy applied to him. Skorput was advised that it id, 40. tthe March 7, 2016 Select Board mecting, Town Counsel opined that, ‘because of Skorpu’s actions the Town was atrsk fora lawsuit under the Whistle Blower Act. 41, Atthe March 7, 2016 Select Board mestng, the topic of Sorpt’s ‘ongoing failure to file confit of interest disclosures was discussed. Town Counsel ‘offered to assist Skorput in filingihe disclosures. Skorput didnot ile any disclosure uni January 2017, 42, tthe March 21,2016 Select Board meeting, allock’s concems were agin discussed and the Chai meved to request Town Counsel hire firm to conduct an -auit ofthe WSFD. 43, Anaudit was conducted in August 2016 and filed in October and it found that Skorpu’s record-keeping forthe WFD roster and the process around stipend payments was insufficient. 44, Asareslt ofthe audit, Skorput was required to provide regular WSFD report othe Select Board Awarding a Position to « Personal Friend 45. Im April 2015, the Select Board was the appointing thority forthe transfer station attendant (the “Attendant. 46, tthe April 13,2015 Select Board meeting, the members discussed how to find coverage forthe Atendant who was unable to work because of illness. Skorpt, as Sclect Board member, suggested compiling a roster of available people to fil n 47. Onorafter April 13,2015, Skorput as Select Board member, ranged for aul Marchetto (“Marche 4 personal fen, to Fill in forthe Attendant. 48, From May2015 to August 2015, Marchetto was paid approximately $2,900 for this work. The Town di not pay anyother individual for Atlendant work during this ime period 49. Skorput dit not ile any disclosure regarding his friendship with Marcheto, Votes Against Board of Health Chair and Health Agent 50. In June 2017, the West Stockbridge Board of Health "BOH") recived notice from the state Department of Environmental Protection ("DEP") regarding an allegation of illegal dumping of refuse materials on Skorp’s property, The DEP letter advised the BOH tote ston. At the time, Scott Sawyer was the Chai ofthe BOH and asl Moffat was the Heath Agent. Sl. Aminspecion by the BOH revealed tha offsite refuse had been deposited on Skorpu's property. The dumping site was found to possibly impact a semi-pblic ‘water supply and several private water supply wells on adjoining properties. (On May 25, 2018, the BOH issue a leter to Skorput. Although the BOH bhad the authority to order Skorput to remove the material, it did not do so because of the financial burden to Skorput. Instead, the BOH ordered Skorputobain a plan ‘of propery delineating the affected area, prepared by acetifed professional, and eaus it tobe filed asa deed restriction on Skorput’s property. The letter was signed by Sawyer sand Lue! Leonard. $3. OnJume 18, 2018, the Select Board acted on the Annual Officer Appointments. Skorput voted zgainst resppointng: Moffatt as Health Agent; 'b. Moffat as member ofthe Histrial Commission; ©. Moffatt as member of the Sewer and Water Commission; and 4, Sawyer as member of the Historical Commission, £4, Skorput didnot ile any disclosure regarding past isses between himself and Moffat or Sawyer. VIOLATIONS Holding Two Municipal Positions 55. As WSFD Fire Chief, Skorput was a municipal employee a defined in G.L.c. 268A, § 1). As a West Stockbridge Select Board member, Skorput was a special municipal employee as defined in G.L.c. 268A, § (0. $6. Section 20 of GL. c. 268A prohibits» municipal employee from having a Financia interest, dzetly or ndiectly, n a contract made by a municipal agency ofthe same cit or town, in which the same ety or town i an interested pat, of which 8 financial interest the employee has knowledge or reason to know, except as permitted by one of the exceptions tothe section. 57. Skorpu’sspointment a Fire Chief was a contract withthe Town for he Purposes ofthe conflict of interes aw. 58. Skorput hd a financial interest in this contract because the postion of Fite Chief was compensated. Skorput knew of this financial interest 59. In May 2013, when Skorput was elected asa Select Board member, his financial interest in his Fite Chief positon raised an issue under § 20, which prohibited that interest unless the requirements ofan exemption o that section were met by Skorput ©, From the time he Became a Select Board member in May 2013 uni January 2017, korpt didnot seek or obtain an exemption to § 20 61, Therefor, Skorput violated § 20 by continuing to hold the compensated position of Fire Chief after he was elected to the Select Board Participating in his own reappointment and awarding stipends to himself, his daughter and his nephew tion 19 ‘Skorput's Reappowntment as Fire Chief 62, Except as otherwise permitted, §19 of G.L. c. 268A prohibits a municipal ‘employee from participating as such an employee ina particular matter in which, to his knowledge, he or an immediate family member has a financial interest 63. The Select Board's decision to reappoint Skorput as Fire Chief was a particular mater. 64. Skerpt ha a financial interest in the particular mater of his reappoiniment as Fire Chief because it is a compensated positon. 65. tn June 2013, Skorput participated as Select Board member inthe ‘particular matter of his reappointment as Fize Chief by voting asa Select Board member in favor of is reappoinsment 66. tthe time of his partisipaton, Skorput knew that he had a Financial intrest in the particular mater of his reappointment as Fire Chief 67. Acconlingly, by participating as Selet Board member in his eappoinimeat as Fre Chief, Skorput violated § 19, Fire;prson's Incentives for Storput and his Daughter 68. Thedecsion regarding the anount of Fire person's Incentives to pay ‘firefighters andthe payment of those Fite person's Incentives were particular matter. ©, Both Skorput and his daughter had» financial interest in these pantcular matters because ths Fite-person’s Incentives were compensation 70, As Skorput’s daughter, Tica Skorput is member of Skorput's immediate fail. 71. Skerput participated as Fire Chie in these particular matters by deciding ‘he amount of and awarding Fte-person’s Incentives o himself and his daughter and submitting them tc the Select Board for payment 72. Skexput also participated as Select Bourd member in these particular ‘matters by signing warrants that contained Fite-person’s Incentives for! is daughter. 10 73, Atthe time of his paticipation as Fie Chief and as Select Board member, Skorput knew that bth he and lis daughter had a financial interes in these particular mates 74, ‘Thus, by pacing as Fie Chet and as Select Board member in particular matters conceming the WSFD Fire-prson’s Incentives for himself and his daughter, Skorpt violated § 19. estion 23 Appearance Violation regarding Fireperson's Incentive for Nephew 75, Section 23(b)3) of G.L. €. 268A prob «8 municipal employee from, ‘knowingly, or with reason to know, acting in a manner which would cause a reasonable person, having knovledge ofthe relevant sumstances to conclude that any person can improperly influence or unduly enjoy his favor inthe pesformanceof hs offical duis, ‘orthat he is ikely to acto fail to aet as a result of kinship, rank, postion or undue influence of any party or person. 76. Bysas deserbed shove, participating as Fire Chief in WSFD matters regarding his nephew, including calculating and awarding a yearly Fire-person's Incentive, Skorput knowingly or ith reason to know, ated in a manner which would cause a reasonable person, having knowlege ofall the relevant czcustances to conclude that Skorput would be likely tose favorably toward his nephew asa result of| Kinship inthe performance of hit official duis as Fire Chie, 77. Skorpt didnot ile disclosure sufficient o dispel the appearance of undue influence and favoritism in his official actions 78. Ino acting, Skorput violated G.L.c. 268A, § 23(b\3) Participation and Retaliation Regarding Complaints Against Him Section 19 79. The complaints regarding Skorpt’s performance as Fre Chief were patiular matters. 80. Skorput had financial interest inthe complaints regarding his job performance because such criticism could affect his compensated position a Fite Chief and professional reputation BI. InSeptember 2014, October 2015, November 2015, and February 2016, ‘korput participated as Select Board member in the particular matters ofthe complaints by discussing the merits ofthe complains at Select Board meetings. 82, Atthetime of his participation, Skorput knew that he hada financial Jnterestin the panicular mates of the complains 83. Accordingly, by participating as Selest Board member inthe complaints regarding his Fitness as Fire Chief, Skorput violated § 19. Section 230012 84. Section 23(0)2Xii) OF GL. €. 268A prokibits 3 municipal employee fom, ‘knowingly, or with reason o know, using or atemptingo se his official position to secure for himself or others unwarranted privileges or exemptions which are of substantial value and which are not properly available to similarly situated individuals, 85, The opporunitytoretaliate aginst Hallock fr complaining about Skorput's performance a Fire Chit by terminating Hallock without justification was a privilege 86, The privilege was unwarranted because Skorput was nt authorized as Fie CCiet to terminate Hallock based an Skorpt’s persona feelings about Hallock, rather ‘han on objective criteria such as Hallock's work performance; and the privilege was not propery available to individuals similary-sitated to Skorpu as Fie Chief 87. Ths privilege wasof substantial valuebecause Skorputstennination of Hallock resulted inthe removal ofa souree of complaints that caused the Select Board to oder an audit and could have resulted in Skorput losing his paid position as Fite Chief, as well as harm his professional reputation. Skorput’s stipend was worth more than $50, ‘The termination vas of substantial value to Skorput because it would discredit Hallock as ‘complainant, which would, n tu, discredit Hallok’s allegations against hi. In udition, the privilege of his termination was of substantial value because Skorput's actions resulted in him obtaining the satisfaction ofrealiating against the freighter who had complained about him. Such satisfaction, an tangible, non- quantifiable benefit is worth $50 or more 88. Skorput was ony in a position to terminate Hallock because he was Fire ‘Chief and he used his postion as Fire Chet to cause that termination in eatin for Hallock’ complaint about him tothe Selet Board 89. Therefore, by in the manne described above, by using his position a Fite ‘Chief to retaliate against Hillock, Skorput knowingly or wit reason to know used his B ficial position to secure for himself an unwarranted pivilegeof substantial valve not properly available to tke similarly situated individuals in violation of §23(6, 2). Appearance Violation regarding Awarding a Poston toa Personal Fiend Section 233 90. By, s described above, participating asa Select Board membe in matters regarding Marcett, Skorput knowingly or with reason to know, acted ina manner ‘which would cause a reasonable person, having knowledge of al the relevant circumstances, including Skorp’ friendship with Marchett, to conclude hat Skorput ‘would be likely oct evorably towards Marchetto a a esl ofthe friendship inthe performance of Skorpu' offical duties asa Seleet Board member. 91. Skorput did not file a disclosure suficient to dispel the appesrince of undue influence and faortsm in his oficial action 92. Insocting, Sorput violated G.L. 268A, § 25(0)). Appearance Violation regarding Board of Health Chair and Health Agent Section 230013 93. By, as described above, participating as a Select Board member in matters regarding Saveyerand Moffat shortly after the BOH issued alter to him requiring him to take ation concerning the dumping ste on his property including filing a deed restriction on the property, Skorpu, knowingly or with reason to know, acted in. « mannet which would cause a reasonable person, having knowledge ofall the relevant circumstances, including Skorput's animosity towards Sawyer and Moffat, to conchide that Skorput ‘would be likey to et unfavorably towards Sawyer and Moffat in the peformance of his oficial duties as a Solct Board member. 94. —Skorpur did not file a disclosure sufficient to displ these appearances of undue influence and favoritism in is official actions 95. Inso acting, Skorput violated G.L. . 268A, § WHEREFORE, Petitioner asks thatthe Commission 1 Find hat Skorput violated G.L. 266A, §§ 19,20, and 23; and 2 —_Levysuch evil penalties, sue such order nd grant such other relief as say be appropriate Respectfully submited, Petitioner State Ethics Commission By its atomey, ‘Date: September 18, 2019 (sb Tracy Morong ‘Tracy Morong Assistant Enforcement Counsel State Ethies Comission One Ashburton Place, Room 619 Boston, MA. 02108, (617) 371-9500, BOF 647480 15