Senator Dan Wolf will appeal ethics commission ruling

State Senator Dan Wolf during an earlier visit to the Vineyard. — File photo by Steve Myrick

Cape and Islands Senator Dan Wolf will not resign from the Senate on Thursday, as he had planned, and will instead formally appeal a State Ethics Commission ruling that found him in violation of conflict of interest laws due to his ownership stake in Cape Air.

The commission on Tuesday granted Mr. Wolf an extension until its next public meeting, on September 19, to appeal a ruling that gave Wolf three options to comply with the conflict law: resign his Senate seat and suspend his gubernatorial campaign, cease Cape Air operations through Logan International Airport, or divest himself of his interests in Cape Air, a company he founded 25 years ago.

The ruling from early August gave Mr. Wolf until Monday to comply with law. Mr. Wolf last week suspended his campaign for governor and said he planned to resign from the Senate Thursday. On Monday he requested the extension from the commission and it was quickly granted.

While he has been a vocal critic of the decision, Mr. Wolf will now prepare to present the commission with a formal petition requesting reconsideration of the ruling that has drawn criticism from Wolf’s legislative colleagues on both sides of the aisle, according to his campaign. Gov. Deval Patrick on Wednesday called the ruling “technically right” but “practically odd.”

“As I informed the Commission, I intend to join with a group of civic minded people to petition the Commission to adopt a regulation that would allow and even encourage citizens from many walks of life to enter public service while protecting the public from any potential conflicts or undue influence,” Mr. Wolf said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.

Mr. Wolf has argued that agreements Cape Air has with the Massachusetts Port Authority to operate at Logan are not traditional contracts because Massport is required to work with Cape Air under federal law, and the terms of the agreements are set by Massport, non-negotiable and applied equally to all airlines.

Still, Mr. Wolf said he won’t challenge the commission’s interpretation or application of Section 7 of the conflict of interest statute. The Harwich Democrat said the commission has agreed to consider his petition and extend his compliance deadline, and his campaign will make the petition public after it is presented to the commission before the September 19 hearing.

The 1962 ethics law cited by the commission in his ruling was designed to prohibit lawmakers from benefitting financially from contracts with the state over which they could exert control and influence, Wolf’s campaign has suggested.

In choosing to suspend his gubernatorial ambitions and disclosing his plans to give up the Senate seat he won in 2010, Wolf rejected the other options presented by the Ethics Commission that he worried could destroy the company he built.

Mr. Wolf last week said ending all leases and operating agreements between Cape Air and Massport would “destroy” Cape Air and lead to the loss of 1,000 jobs. Divesting his holdings in Cape Air, he said, would “fundamentally undermine the company,” while selling his shares to company employees “would saddle them with serious debt as I walk out the door, and create significant cash flow challenges going forward.”

Mr. Wolf also said that selling his shares to a private owner “would end employee control of the company’s future, removing protection from a forced merger or acquisition.”