Ethics Commission backtracks

Cannot prevent Wolf from running for governor

The state Ethics Commission admitted on Thursday that it erred in ruling that state Sen. Dan Wolf must abandon his run for governor unless he divests himself of his ownership in Cape Air.

In an opinion issued earlier this month, the commission ruled that Cape Air’s landing fees-arrangement with the Massachusetts Port Authority at Logan Airport constitutes a no-bid contract with a state agency even though all airlines operating at individual Logan terminals have the exact same contract. Under state ethics laws, public employees, including elected officials, cannot have a stake in a company that receives a no-bid contract from a state agency.

In its ruling, the Ethics Commission said Wolf must either divest himself of his 20 percent interest in Cape Air, have the airline cease landing at Logan, or “resign his public office and discontinue his campaign for governor.” David Giannotti, a spokesman for the commission, said that if Wolf steps down as senator, he is not subject to Ethics Commission oversight and regulations as a private citizen.

“We cannot impose enforcement on private citizens and cannot prevent someone from running for office,” Giannotti said.

Giannotti said that if Wolf continued his campaign for governor and won, he could not assume the office unless the law regarding no-bid contracts is changed by the Legislature or if Wolf complies with the other conditions mentioned in the Ethics Commission’s ruling to avoid a conflict of interest. Giannotti said the incorrect wording was likely “written in the rush of things.”

A spokesman for Wolf declined comment, saying the campaign is studying all options, including asking the Ethics Commission to review its opinion. Wolf has 30 days from the date of the ruling, which was issued Aug. 2, to comply or be subject to enforcement. There is no process that allows for an appeal of the ruling, though Giannotti said that commission members could review their opinion if “new information or new legal arguments were brought forth.”

The next full commission meeting is Sept. 19, nearly three weeks after the deadline for Wolf to comply.

In a meeting with CommonWealth earlier this week, Wolf said it was likely he would have to step down as the senator from the Cape and islands. He said he had no intention of challenging the Ethics Commission ruling in court, but indicated he would support a change in the state ethics laws to correct what he called “unintended consequences.”

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

The prospect of a politician running for a job he could technically not hold unless state ethics laws are changed would be unprecedented. Wolf admitted continuing to run for governor would be “a challenge” on a number of fronts.

Wolf has received the support of a number of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, who said the commission’s ruling is at odds with the law’s intent. But several legislative leaders said that, as of now, there have been no bills filed to make changes in the law that would enable Wolf to keep his post or serve as governor.