Wareham school official penalized by state for conflict of interest violation

Jul 27, 2022

A Wareham Public Schools official was fined $4,000 by the state for violating the conflict of interest law in hiring family members for jobs within the school district, the state says.

Director of Student Services Melissa Fay entered into a disposition agreement with the States Ethics Commission, according to commission documents released on July 27, admitting to the violations and waiving her rights to a hearing. The state says Fay hired her mother and participated in hiring her son for positions in Wareham schools between 2018 and 2020.

Wareham Superintendent Matthew D’Andrea said in an email Wednesday that he had received a copy of the ethics commission's report. He confirmed that Fay is currently the director of student services for the district.

“The district will use that information to conduct its own investigation,” his email reads.

Fay declined to comment and referred Wareham Week to the superintendent.

The commission says that as director of student services, Fay hired her mother for translation and interpretation services for the school district eight times between 2018 and 2020. She did this, a state press release says, without seeking or receiving approval from the school superintendent, as required for such hirings.

Fay signed seven of the school’s invoices for her mother’s work, which paid Fay’s mother a total of $5,975.

The director also violated the conflict of interest law, the state said, in participating in her son’s hiring when he began work in the Extended School Year program in 2019. She recommended the superintendent hire her son, along with 24 other candidates, as a paraprofessional.

“Although Wareham Public Schools’ established hiring procedures required candidates like her son to submit an application and be interviewed,” the release reads, “Fay’s son did not submit an application until after he was hired and was never interviewed.”

For his work as a paraprofessional, Fay’s son was paid $1,461, the report says.

“The conflict of interest law prohibits municipal employees from participating as such in matters in which their immediate family has a financial interest,” the release reads. “Fay violated this prohibition by participating as director of student services in the hiring of her son, by hiring her mother, and by approving payment of her mother’s invoices.

“In addition, by failing to follow the school district’s established procedures when hiring her mother and when participating in the hiring of her son, Fay violated the conflict of interest law’s prohibition against public employees using their official positions to obtain valuable benefits or privileges for themselves or others to which they are not entitled.”