State Ethics Commission logo A former Inspectional Services Department director in Arlington made certain admissions of repeated actions involving conflict of interest, paid a fine -- and the case was dismissed by the state Ethics Commission, which stated on Wednesday,  Sept. 27, the following:

"The state Ethics Commission has issued a Final Decision and Order allowing a Joint Motion to Dismiss and approving a Disposition Agreement in which former Arlington Inspectional Services Department Director Michael Byrne admits to repeatedly violating the conflict of interest law by allowing his own plumbing company to do work without permits or inspections at more than three dozen Arlington sites, creating false permits for work his company performed, and through other actions.

 "The Commission accepted Byrne’s payment of an $80,000 civil penalty and dismissed the adjudicatory proceeding against him."

The commission's full statement, plus background information about the case previously pending for months, continues below.

"Byrne was director of the town of Arlington’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) from 1997-2021, during which time he also owned and operated Trademark Plumbing. As ISD Director, Byrne was responsible for enforcing the state building and plumbing codes. From 2016 through 2020, Byrne allowed Trademark Plumbing to perform plumbing work without permits at 37 locations and without inspections at eight locations.

"Byrne, as ISD Director, also performed inspections on Trademark Plumbing’s work at six locations, issued certificates of occupancy for two properties where the company did work, and created eight false plumbing permits for work the company had performed without permits. Byrne also issued a certificate of occupancy in 2017 for a building whose owner provided him with private loans totaling $25,000 in 2016, 2017, and 2018.

"By allowing Trademark Plumbing to perform work without permits or inspections and by creating false permits for the company, Byrne violated the conflict of interest law’s prohibition against public employees using their official positions to obtain unwarranted valuable privileges.

"The conflict of interest law also prohibits public employees from participating officially in matters in which they know they or their business have a financial interest. Byrne violated this prohibition by inspecting Trademark Plumbing’s work and issuing certificates of occupancy for properties where the company had done work.

"Additionally, the conflict of interest law prohibits public employees from acting in a manner that would cause a reasonable person to conclude that they can be unduly influenced by anyone or are likely to act with favoritism toward anyone in their official actions. Byrne violated this prohibition by issuing a certificate of occupancy for property owned by the developer who provided him with private loans."

Additional context

The settlement means that Byrne will not have to go through the equivalent of a trial, which earlier this year was tentatively slated at three different timeframes in the summer.

The statement YourArlington received Wednesday, Sept. 27, was provided by Gerry Tuoti, senior public information officer of the state Ethics Commission.

It made no reference to Byrne's attorney's contentions earlier in the year that Byrne had suffered neurological illness, had undergone brain surgery, suffered complications and therefore might not be able to contribute to his own defense.

 YourArlington had reported about Byrne's being placed on paid leave early in the year 2020 for reasons that the town did not disclose.

Recent history of the case

In late May, it was suggested that the two sides consider by early June the possibility of attempting to reach a settlement. The commission case alleging that the former managerial-level Town of Arlington official was involved in conflicts of interest was recently expected to be argued in September, and, prior to that, in August, and prior to that, in June.

As reported by YourArlington in January, the commission’s enforcement division has alleged that Byrne, who retired from town employment in 2021, created fraudulent permits for plumbing work his company performed without permits; inspected his own company’s work; issued certificates of occupancy for properties at which his company had performed work; and issued a certificate of occupancy for a property owned by a developer who had lent him money.

In May, Eron L.A. Hackshaw, presiding officer in the case involving Byrne, denied a defense motion seeking an indefinite stay. "However, under the circumstances," the May 23 order says, "a reasonable continuance of the proceedings is warranted to accommodate respondent’s scheduled neuropsychological evaluation."

Order issued in May

At the May 16 hearing, Byrne’s attorney, Daniel K. Gelb, of Gelb & Gelb LLP in Beverly, asked for a stay pending results of a neurological evaluation of Byrne, which Gelb said he believed could indicate that Byrne is unfit to contribute to his own defense.

Two days later, commission attorney Candies Pruitt filed supplemental documentation, as agreed at the hearing.

After review, Hackshaw denied the defense motion and issued this order May 23:

1. All outstanding discovery responses are to be filed on or before July 12.

2. The adjudicatory hearing previously scheduled for June 5-8 shall be held Aug. 21-25.

3. The parties are to consult with each other to submit a proposed protective order to Hackshaw as it relates to the respondent’s May 18 supplemental filing.

4. The parties are to consult with each other as to whether they wish to participate in the commission’s mediation program and report their intentions at their earliest opportunity. 

5. On or before June 6, the parties are to submit to Hackshaw a status report regarding the possibility of a settlement. The deadlines in this order can be rescheduled only after a written motion for good cause. 

“This [request for an indefinite stay] is not something that is being staged for the purposes of this proceeding,” Gelb said at the May 16 hearing. “[Byrne] has had brain surgery. This is not something that’s just coming out of the ether because he has a state Ethics Commission proceeding against him.”

According to medical documents that the defense submitted to the commission, Byrne suffers from hydrocephalus, a condition caused by the buildup of fluid in the brain. Gelb said May 16 that Byrne had undergone surgery at an unspecified earlier date to attempt to treat the condition -- a procedure that Gelb said resulted in “complications,” on which he did not elaborate.

Damage to brain tissue as a result of hydrocephalus can cause memory loss or loss of reasoning skills. Given the potential for those symptoms, the defense argued that the results of Byrne’s planned evaluation in the first two weeks of June would have to be considered before he stands trial, to prevent the possibility of having to delay the trial further or to amend Byrne’s testimony after the fact.

May 31, 2023: Case of ex-inspections chief delayed until August


May 17, 2023: Defense requests delay in case of ex-inspections chief, citing brain ailment


Jan. 12, 2023: Ex-inspectional chief violated conflict law, ethics commission alleges 

This account was published Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, based on information from Gerry Tuoti, senior public information officer of the state Ethics Commission.