Dan Wolf to resign

Wolf to resign from Senate on August 29 and suspend campaign unless Ethics Commission reconsiders ruling

BOSTON – August 22, 2013 – In early August, the Massachusetts Ethics Commission ruled that I am in violation of state ethics laws because the company I founded 25 years ago, Cape Air, has agreements with MassPort to use Logan Airport, and I still have an ownership interest in the company.

Since then, I have been searching for a way to reconcile this decision with my own understanding of the situation, my responsibilities to the people who elected me as State Senator from the Cape and Islands, my hope to become the next Governor of the Commonwealth, and my respect for the principles of open and transparent government that created the Commission in the first place.

I do not believe Cape Air’s agreements with MassPort are state contracts that create a conflict of interest for me as a public official. These are fixed fees and leases with identical terms and conditions for any airline that uses Logan. Federal regulations require that every qualified airline must be allowed to use the facility, so there is no opportunity for discretion, negotiation, or influence. Cape Air has used Logan for 25 years under such operating agreements that automatically renew. MassPort does not pay Cape Air; Cape Air leases space and pays a fee, like a Turnpike toll or a charge for municipal water, to use a piece of public infrastructure.

The Ethics Commission has been aware since at least May, 2010 of my ownership interest in Cape Air. Not until August 2, 2013, three weeks after I announced my campaign for governor, did they rule that Cape Air’s use of Logan puts me in violation of ethics law. Their decision was made by the full commission without conversation or consultation with me leading up to the vote, no preliminary opinion and no opportunity for input. It was, as their own spokesperson put it, “written in the rush of things.” Nothing in their ruling in any way implies that I have acted or voted improperly as a State Senator, only that Cape Air’s use of Logan violates the letter of the law.

The Ethics Commission offered me two options short of resigning from public office within 30 days:

1) End all leases and operating agreements between Cape Air and MassPort.

2) Divest all of my holdings from Cape Air, and end all associations with the company.

Ending all leases and operating agreements between Cape Air and MassPort would effectively prohibit Cape Air from serving Logan Airport, destroy a Massachusetts company, lead to the loss of 1000 jobs, and end air service to 11 communities that rely on Cape Air as their sole year-round carrier.

That is not an option I can in good conscience pursue.

Divesting all of my holdings in Cape Air, and ending all associations with the company I founded 25 years ago, also would fundamentally undermine the company. Selling my shares to the company’s employees through the employee stock ownership plan created in 1996 would saddle them with serious debt as I walk out the door, and create significant cash flow challenges going forward. Selling my shares to a private owner would end employee control of the company’s future, removing protection from a forced merger or acquisition.

That also is not an option I can in good conscience pursue.

And so, without a change in the Ethics Commission’s position, I will resign my Senate seat effective Thursday, August 29.

I would do so under duress. I would do so believing that the Cape and Islands Senatorial district is being denied duly elected representation.

Until this matter is resolved, I am suspending my efforts to become the next Governor of Massachusetts, believing that unless this ruling is changed I cannot conduct a campaign for real economic and social justice, defining a bright future for the Commonwealth that includes affordable public education, a rebuilt infrastructure, and healthy partnerships between the public and private sectors.

By statute, the only formal appeals process available for a full Ethics Commission ruling would be to take a case into Superior Court.

In a quarter century running an airline, I have never gone to court on a major matter, as either defendant or plaintiff. Spending a significant amount of money in the weeks and months ahead appealing a State Ethics Commission ruling is anathema to me. It is far from the kind of conversation I want to conduct, or our Commonwealth deserves: How to make government work for working families and those in need and how to rebuild our middle class.

Unless the Ethics Commission reconsiders, taking both the spirit and letter of the law into account, acknowledging that the intent of the conflict of interest law was not to stop someone in my situation from serving the public, this will be my course of action.

At the founding of our nation, Thomas Jefferson talked about how successful citizens need to find time later in life to “put down the plow,” move into public service, contribute to a vital democracy, and then return to the field and private life.

Meet the Author

Dan Wolf

Senator, Massachusetts Senate
That was my model when I first ran for office three years ago. But this ruling would force me to forsake and jeopardize the modern equivalent of my farm, a business built by many hands, and leave me nothing to return to after my time in public service.

Without a change of ruling, with deep regret, I will be submitting my resignation from the Massachusetts Senate on August 29.