The State Ethics Commission, in an unusual public rebuke of a Beacon Hill lawmaker, is disputing state Senator Dan Wolf’s claims that the agency had never raised a red flag about the potential ethics violations posed by the two contracts that his firm, Cape Air, has with the Massachusetts Port Authority.
The potential conflict came to light Wednesday, after Wolf—a Democrat who recently launched a bid for governor—made public an ethics ruling saying that he would have to exit the race and public office if he did not either divest from Cape Air or pull the airline out of the airport.
In a statement Thursday, the commission said that as far back as 2010, when Wolf was elected to the senate, he was advised that he should check to see if his airline had any contracts with Massport, because that could be a conflict of interest. Massport, which operates Logan International Airport, is a quasi-public agency whose board is controlled by the governor.
“Senator Wolf did not follow up on that advice, nor did he inform the Commission of Cape Air’s contracts with Massport,’’ the agency claimed.
Wolf did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Earlier this year, when he launched his bid for governor, Wolf returned to the ethics commission and—this time—provided copies of the contracts with Massport for the commission’s review, the agency said
“In his dealings with the Commission, Senator Wolf was never led to believe that no conflict existed,’’ the agency said. “In fact, he was advised that he likely had a substantial problem under the conflict law, and that he would be given specific advice after he provided the Massport contracts. Senator Wolf provided the contracts, but announced his intention to run for Governor before receiving that advice.”
The commission ultimately issued its private ruling to Wolf last Friday. Wolf, a Harwich Democrat has defiantly vowed to remain a candidate for governor as he tries overturn the ruling.
In its statement, the agency provided a very different account of what advice Wolf received after taking office in 2010. Wolf said on Wednesday that the agency’s general counsel provided advice to an aide just before he took his legislative seat at the State House that “led me to believe no such conflict would exist.’’
The commission Thursday included an email dated Nov. 23, 2010, in which its general counsel specifically warned the aide that the contracts posed potential legal issues for the senator-elect.
“That email stated in part: ‘I also advised you to check whether Cape Air has any contracts with the state, since Mr. Wolf is not allowed to have any interests, direct or indirect, in state contracts,’” the agency wrote.Frank Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.