Feb. 24 email from Ethics Commission Attorney to City Councilor John Leahy:

Dear Mr. Leahy,

This is to summarize the advice I just gave you under the conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A. You are a Lowell city councilor, and, as such, a municipal employee for purposes of that law. Your brother in law, who is married to your sister, is a candidate for the position of Lowell city manager. The city council appoints the city manager, votes on the manager's contract, and oversees the position. You asked whether you are permitted to vote on your brother in law's application.

Section 19 of the conflict of interest law prohibits municipal employees from participating in particular matters in which members of their "immediate family" have a financial interest. "Immediate family" has a definition in the statute, G.L. c. 268A, section 1(e), that does not include a brother in law who is married to your sister. Therefore, Section 19 is inapplicable here.

Section 23(b)(2) of the conflict of interest law requires public officials to apply objective standards in all their official actions. You should not participate in decisions involving your brother in law unless you believe that you can be objective.

Assuming that you can be objective, then you should use the attached form to make a public, written disclosure of the fact that your brother in law is applying for the position of city manager, and you will be called on as a city councilor to decide whether to appoint him. Making the disclosure will eliminate any appearance that might otherwise exist that you would tend to favor him because he is your brother in law.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Deirdre Roney

General Counsel

State Ethics Commission