Monday, November 5, 2018

Conflicts Draw Reprimand

The Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers publicly reprimanded a public official

The respondent was an elected official of a town planning board and therefore, subject to M.G.L. c. 268A §17(c), the state conflict of interest law. As a municipal employee the respondent was prohibited from acting as an attorney for anyone other than the town in a matter in which the town had a substantial interest.

The respondent acted as counsel in two unrelated matters in which the town was a defendant. In both matters, town counsel informed the respondent that his representation was in violation of the state conflict of interest law. In both matters, the respondent failed to withdraw, and the defendants filed motions to disqualify him as counsel. The respondent opposed the motions when there was no non-frivolous ground for doing so. In the second matter, the respondent attempted to resolve his conflict by advising the client to permit him to dismiss the complaint against the town, when arguably, it was not in the interest of the clients to do so.

A complaint against the respondent was filed with the State Ethics Commission for acting as counsel for plaintiffs in matters where the town had substantial interest. The State Ethics Commission found the respondent guilty of two violations of the M.G.L. c. 268A §17(c) and fined him $5,000.

The quoted description comes from a summary on the Bar's web page. (Mike Frisch)

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