Haley appeals state ethics commission decision

The ball is now in the Suffolk County Superior Court.

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Aquinnah select board member Gary Haley filed an appeal against a state Ethics Commission decision. — Eunki Seonwoo

Aquinnah select board member Gary Haley is appealing a decision by the state Ethics Commission that he violated the state’s conflict of interest law by doing work for the town and then approving payment to himself. Haley’s appeal was filed in Suffolk County Superior Court in Boston because that’s the commission’s “usual place of business.”

“There will be no comment at this time,” commission spokesman Gerry Tuoti told The Times. 

In October, the commission ordered Haley to pay a $10,000 fine for choosing himself to do conduit work for Aquinnah and then approving the $17,445 payment he received from the town. The commission found Haley, a master electrician by trade, to be in violation of the conflict of interest law. Haley maintained his innocence during the hearings, although admitted to doing the work near the Aquinnah Cliffs. He claimed to have responded to an emergency situation by volunteering his services. 

This appeal is contrary to an October statement Haley made through his attorney, Richard Gross, that while Haley disagrees with the decision, he would accept it, and would drop his right to an appeal within 30 days to Superior Court. 

“I think the appeal speaks for itself,” Gross told The Times. “We believe the commission got it half-right.” That was a reference to the commission dismissing two counts against Haley. Gross said he believes the court will dismiss the other two counts against Haley as well.

According to the five-page appeal filed on Nov. 22, the commission found Haley violated the law “in two instances by knowingly participating in a particular matter in which he had a substantial interest.” Haley charged Aquinnah for installing electric conduit on town land and by approving payment of his own invoice for the work. However, two other counts were dismissed by the commission, finding Haley did not enter into a contract with the town, and that his invoice was not fraudulent. 

The appeal states that the conflict of interest law prohibits municipal employees from “participating in a particular matter in which to his knowledge he has a financial interest.” But since the commission found Haley did not enter into a contract, the appeal argues that the commission “wrongfully failed to dismiss” the first count, which “alleged the existence of a contract.” The appeal also underscored that a municipal employee needs to have “specific knowledge of the act alleged to have been committed in order to constitute a violation” of the conflict of interest law. According to the appeal, “The commission cited no evidence that Mr. Haley had actual knowledge that his invoice was contained within the warrant he signed.”

Haley is “aggrieved by the final decision of the commission,” and the appeal requested the court to set aside the first count “because it is internally inconsistent, based upon an error of law, arbitrary, and capricious, and not supported by substantial evidence,” and the second count because it is “internally inconsistent,” “based upon an error of law” through misinterpretation of Massachusetts general law, “unsupported by substantial evidence,” and “arbitrary or capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law.”

The appeal asks the court to “stay the order and decision of the commission” or “set aside the commission’s decision” that Haley violated the financial interest portion of the conflict of interest law, “find that the court’s set aside of the commission’s decision is substantial and award the plaintiff his costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees,” and to grant other and further relief as deemed “just and proper.” 

When The Times asked Gross whether a hearing has been scheduled, he replied, “It won’t be for months.” 

11 COMMENTS

  1. Don why are you with Haley? Does that mean you agree with stealing money from tax payers? He’s a selectmen who named himself wiring inspector. Red flag. Then he as a selectman hired himself to do electrical work. Red flag. Then Inspected the work he completed himself. Red flag. Then approved payment to himself. Red flag. It’s pretty comical that someone could be so foolish to do this and think it’s ok in this day and age. I can guarantee you that he didn’t call anyone to do the work. Just thought he could sneak in and do it himself. There’s no emergency situation that would justify how he stole money from his own town.

    • James–The article above clearly states that “his invoice was not fraudulent”.
      Nothing in the article states that he stole anything, or overbilled.
      Quite the opposite, according to this article. .

      In an earlier article in this publication dated Oct 25 2022

      “The commission also found it was not established that Haley submitted “a false or fraudulent claim” for payment for 22 hours for work by him and two laborers. “Although the evidence raised questions regarding whether two laborers Haley claimed to have paid performed the work or whether other workers did this work without receiving pay from Haley, the commission found it was not proved that the town did not receive 22 hours of work by two laborers,” the release states.”
      https://www.mvtimes.com/2022/10/25/haley-ordered-pay-10000-fine/

      The only mention of accusations of overbilling appeared in an article dated Oct 19 2021

      “Gary Haley, who was accused by the commission in May of allegedly overbilling the town of Aquinnah by more than $4,000 for electrical conduit work in 2018. The commission alleges that Haley also approved the payment to himself and two alleged assistants, which was placed in the town’s expense warrant”
      https://www.mvtimes.com/2021/10/19/haleys-case-moved-mediation/

      After an investigation, he was cleared of that.

      Yes, there were lots of red flags, but at this point he is only accused of an ethics violation, which is under appeal.
      He is not accused of theft or overbilling.
      That’s why i’m doubling down and standing with Haley.

  2. If one reads the docket on the case from the MA gov, I came to the conclusion that while Haley indulged in some shady evasiveness, he did step up and perform the work at a time when others would not. Leaving a large trench wide open before Memorial Day would not have been wise and he solved the problem. Yes technically there might have been a conflict of interest, however the technicality was overwhelmed by a safety issue.

      • Can I agree with everyone? He should have not engaged himself in the work, but honestly – have you TRIED to get a electrician on short notice these days? In Aquinnah??

        • Carla, they should have planned better. Poor planning from one side doesn’t justify an emergency for the other.

        • Huge personal pet peeve on this one.
          Doctors are on-call/available 24/7 by participating in group call schedules. While plumbing and electrical “emergencies” are not typically life-and-death scenarios, we all pay very good rates for such services on-island and it should not be nearly impossible to get urgent or even semi-urgent services during after-hours.
          There are enough electricians and plumbers on-island (I think) that could support similar “call-schedules”… if they each took a weekend or 2 a year (at time and a half) we would all benefit. Maybe take off a weekday or 2 after your weekend on-call to “recharge”.

    • A Selectman appointed himself Wiring Inspector, authorizes himself to do the work, authorizes himself to inspect his own work, authorizes to pay himself for the work.
      Three months of home confinement sounds about right.

  3. I can remember that when I was the town administrator for Aquinnah, the underground burying of electric wiring and conduit was being paid mostly through a grant from the state economic development agency. There was a calendar deadline for using the funds for the project and delays were caused by getting agreements for the work by Verizon, Comcast and Eversource. Gary Haley was made aware of the situation from Community Preservation Committee members (who had matched funds with the state grant), and knew that the public procurement process would take too long to find a contractor and/or subs to get all the wires buried. So he took it upon himself to do the necessary work and got the project finished. I have no doubt that Gary acted in the best interests of the town. And his billing was in line with what all electricians on the island would have charged for the work that had to be done before the grant expired. While significant questions remain as to why he was allowed to sign off on the bill warrant to pay himself and inspection of the work being done by another wiring inspector, he does not deserve the financial penalty handed down by the Ethics Commission and his appeal should be noted for his work and time spent serving the community he lives in and cares very much for.

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