An Open Letter to the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission

A guest editorial by Attorney Bruce A. Bierhans
Attorney Bierhans writes an Opem Letter to the State Ethics Commission.

Dear Members of the Massachusetts Ethics Commission:

By Attorney Bruce A. Bierhans

As someone that served as a legislative aide in the Massachusetts Senate from 1976-82 (yes; the great MBM scandal days) and watched some members of the Senate carted off to jail, no one appreciates the responsibilities of the commission more than I. However, I respectfully feel that the recent decision of the commission regarding Dan Wolf has created a cloud over the commission and its procedures and decision making process.

First; let's agree to disagree on the ruling itself. It is not disputed that the fees paid by Cape Air are license fees that are non negotiable. For that reason alone, I believe that there ought to be reconsideration of the ruling. The harshness and broad scope of this ruling creates a very slippery slope that will deter many qualified candidates from considering public service. But, and it's a big but, the timing of the ruling could not have been worse. Whether or not Wolf gave you the actual Massport contracts is not relevant. Of course, he always made full disclosure and the contracts were available if anyone asked for them. Why now, after 3 years of service in the Senate? There is no credible explanation. Also, why no meeting with Wolf to discuss the matter before issuance of the ruling? What about due process? What was the "rush" to use the word of your spokesperson? To give Wolf thirty days to make a decision about a life's work along with a demand that he resign his Senate seat is simply inexplicable and does nothing but raise eyebrows.

As of this morning, Wolf indicated that he will resign his Senate seat by next Thursday and has suspended his campaign. Candidly, as a Wolf supporter, I strongly disagree with his decision. Were it me, I would have sought an extension of enforcement from the Commission, as well as a Stay of the ruling from the Superior Court. But, you all know how much some people love us lawyers and the court system. Disagreement aside, what I do know about Dan is that he is a man of integrity and conviction that has been swept up in a course of events that he has some difficulty comprehending. If Dan Wolf does not continue his candidacy, we the public have lost an opportunity and this state of affairs will have far reaching impact. Globe columnist Tom Keane recently expressed concern regarding the impact this decision could have on the diversity of candidates for public office. He suggested that the rules be changed. While that may be a desired result in the long term, the current ruling needs to be changed, or reconsidered before next Thursday; the date of this fine man's resignation.

Respectfully,

Attorney Bruce A. Bierhans
Offices in Hyannis and Wellfleet

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