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1749 WellsPHONE: 717- 783 -1610 TOLL FREE: 1 -800- 932 -0936 In Re: Joseph Wells, Respondent a }_ STATE ETHICS COMMISSION FINANCE BUILDING 613 NORTH STREET, ROOM 309 HARRISBURG, PA 17120 -0400 File Docket.- X -ref: Date Decided: Date Mailed: FACSIMILE: 717- 787 -0806 WEBSITE: www.ethics.pa.gov 18 -035 Order No. 1749 216119 2113119 Before: Nicholas A. Colafella, Chair Mark R. Corrigan, Vice Chair Roger Nick Meanie DePalma Monique Myatt Galloway Michael A. Schwartz Shelley Y. Simms This is a final adjudication of the State Ethics Commission. Procedurally, the Investigative Division of the State Ethics Commission conducted an investigation regarding possible violation(s) of the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act ( "Ethics Act "), 65 Pa.C.S. § 1101 et seq., by the above -named Respondent. At the commencement of its investigation, the Investigative Division served upon Respondent written notice of the specific allegations. Upon completion of its investigation, the Investigative Division issued and served upon Respondent a Findings Report identified as an "Investigative Complaint." A Stipulation of Findings and a Consent Agreement were subsequently submitted by the parties to the Commission for consideration. The Stipulated Findings are set forth as the Findings in this Order. The Consent Agreement has been approved. I. ALLEGATIONS: That Joseph Wells, a public off iciallpublic employee in his capacity as a Member of the Board of Trustees of Cheyney University of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, violated Sections 1104(x) and 1105(a) of the State Ethics Act (Act 93 of 1998) when he failed to timely file Statement of Financial Interests forms for the 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 calendar years; and when he subsequently filed backdated Statement of Financial Interests forms for calendar years 2015 and 2016 to give the impression that forms for those calendar years were timely filed. II. FINDINGS: 1. Joseph Wells ( "Wells ") has served as a Member of the Cheyney University Board of Trustees since his appointment on or about April 30, 2012. a. Wells was appointed to the Cheyney University Board of Trustees by Pennsylvania Governor Thomas Corbett. 2. Cheyney University is part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education ( "PASSHE "). a. PASSHE was established by statute on July 1, 1983. b. PASSHE is comprised of fourteen Pennsylvania universities. Wells, 18 -035 '2 C. PASSHE serves approximately 105,000 students and is the largest provider of higher education in the state of Pennsylvania. 3. The Cheyney University Board of Trustees is comprised of eleven Members, including one student. a. Board of Trustees Members are appointed by the Governor. b. The Board of Trustees convenes on a quarterly basis (every three months). C. Board of Trustees Members are not compensated for their service. d. The Board of Trustees is responsible for strategic planning and oversight of the Cheyney University President. 4. Statement of Financial Interests forms are required to be filed annually by all elected and appointed public officials of the Commonwealth. a. The forms are required to be filed by no later than May 11t of each year that a public official holds public office. b. The Statement of Financial Interests form requires filers to report specified financial information pertaining to the preceding calendar year. 5. The State Ethics Commission annually contracts for the printing of blank Statement of Financial Interests forms. a. Orders for forms are generally placed with the printing company in December of each year. b. The ordered forms are received by the Administrative Division of the State Ethics Commission in December, prior to January 151 of the filing year. C. Forms are then bulk mailed to municipalities, boards /commissions, and state agencies within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 6. Pursuant to the procedure outlined above, Statement of Financial Interests forms were mailed annually to Cheyney University. 7. Between 2013 and the present, Statement of Financial Interests forms were mailed to Cheyney University as follows: a. For filing year 2013, SEC -1, Rev. 01114 forms were mailed to PASSHE universities, including Cheyney University, on or around December 26, 2013. The SEC -1, REV. 01114 forms were to be used in reporting financial interests for the 2013 calendar year. b. For filing year 2014, SEC-1, REV. 01115 forms were mailed to PASSHE universities, including Cheyney University, on or around January 6, 2015. The SEC -1, REV. 01115 forms were to be used in reporting financial interests for the 2014 calendar year. C. For filing year 2015, SEC -1, REV. 01116 forms were mailed to PASSHE universities, including Cheyney University, on oraround December 30, 2015. Wells, 18 -035 Nag—e 3 The SEC -1, REV. 01116 forms were to be used in reporting financial interests for the 2015 calendar year. d. For filing year 2016, SEC -1, REV. 01117 forms were mailed to PASSHE universities, including Cheyney University, on or around December 28, 2016. The SEC -1, REV. 01117 forms were to be utilized in reporting financial interests for calendar year 2016. e. For filing year 2017, SEC -1, REV. 01118 forms were mailed to PASSHE universities, including Cheyney University, on or around December 27, 2017. The SEC -1, REV. 01118 forms were to be utilized in reporting financial interests for calendar year 2017. 8. Each year that forms are printed, a revision number is listed in the upper left -hand corner of the form. a. Forms printed in 2014 contained an identification number of SEC -1, REV. 01115, while forms printed in 2015, 2016, and 2017 contained identification numbers of SEC -1, REV. 01116; SEC -1, REV. 01117; and SEC -1, REV. 01118, respectively. 9. Cheyney University Executive Associate to the President Ramona Dixon Eheyney Dixon ") was responsible for distributing Statement of Financial Interests forms to University Board of Trustees Members (including Wells) each year. a. Dixon would distribute Statement of Financial Interests forms in March of each year electronically via email to each Board Member, including Wells. b. After receiving the Statement of Financial Interests form, it was each individual Board Member's responsibility to accurately complete theform and file it with the State Ethics Commission. Statement of Financial Interests forms can be mailed or filed electronically online at www.ethics.pa.gov. C. Additionally, copies of Statements of Financial Interests filed by each Board Member were to be maintained at Cheyney University. 10. Wells, in his capacity as a Cheyney University Board of Trustees Member, is required annually to file a Statement of Financial Interests form by May 1st, with information pertaining to the prior calendar year. 11. Each year, Wells, as a Cheyney University Board of Trustees Member, has been provided with blank Statement of Financial Interests forms for completion. a. Dixon provided Wells with forms for completion /filing during calendar years 2013 through 2017. 12. State Ethics Commission records include a Statement of Financial Interests form filed by Wells for calendar year 2013, with a signature date of April 15, 2014 (0411512014). a. This filing confirms that Wells was aware of his requirement to file a Statement of Financial Interests form as a public official. Wells, 18 -035 P -a-g—e-4 13. On June 4, 2018, the State Ethics Commission conducted a Statement of Financial Interests compliance review for Cheyney University Board of Trustees Members. 14. On June 19, 2018, PASSHE was provided with a list compiled by the State Ethics Commission that identified Board of Trustees Members of the various PASSHE universities who had failed to file Statements of Financial Interests. a. The purpose of notifying PASSHE was to gain compliance from individual Board Members who had failed to file Statements of Financial Interests for listed years. 15. Wells was identified by the State Ethics Commission as a Cheyney University Board of Trustees Member who had failed to file Statements of Financial Interests for calendar years 2014 through 2017. 16. PASSHE legal Counsel contacted Cheyney University to notify Dixon that Wells had failed to file Statements of Financial Interests for calendar years 2014 through 2017. a. Dixon was contacted via email on June 21, 2018, and was advised that Walls had failed to file his Statements of Financial Interests for calendar years 2014 through 2017 with the State Ethics Commission. 17. Dixon, via email, notified Wells on June 21, 2018, that the State Ethics Commission did not have Statements of Financial Interests for calendar years 2014 through 2017 on file for him. 18. On June 28, 2018, Wells submitted his Statements of Financial Interests for calendar years 2015, 2016, and 2017 to PASSHE via email. 19. On June 28, 2018, Dixon forwarded Wells' Statement of Financial Interests forms electronically via email to PASSHE. 20. On June 29, 2018, PASSHE submitted Wells' Statement of Financial Interests forms to the State Ethics Commission via email. 21. A review by Commission staff of the Statements of Financial Interests for calendar years 2015 and 2016 provided on or about June 29, 2018, as filed by Wells in his capacity as a Cheyney University Board of Trustees Member, confirmed that Wells' forms were backdated as indicated below: Calendar Year Purported Date of Completion SEC Form Used 2015 4/25/2015 SEC -1, REV. 01117 2016 5/01/2016 SEC -1, REV. 01117 a. Wells' Statement of Financial Interests forms for calendar years 2015 and 2016 contained dates of execution /completion which were factually impossible, as SEC -1, REV. 01/17 forms were not printed /distributed until December 28, 2016. b. It was impossible for Wells to have completed these forms on the dates purported (as signed) as the forms had not yet then been distributed. 22. Investigation revealed that Wells also backdated his calendar year 2017 Statement of Financial Interests form. a. Wells was notified by Dixon that he was missing his calendar year 2017 Statement of Financial Interests form on June 21, 2018. Wells, 18 -035 1- age 5 b. Wells dated his calendar year 2017 filing May 5, 2017, on form SEC -1, REV. 01117 to give the appearance the form was filed by the May 1, 2018, deadline. C. Wells submitted his calendar year 2017 Statement of Financial Interests filing with his 2015 and 2016 filings on June 28, 2018. 23. Despite being notified by Dixon, Wells did not file a calendar year 2017 [sic] Statement of Financial Interests form. 24. On August 31, 2018, Wells provided a sworn statement to a State Ethics Commission Investigator. a. Wells acknowledged that he was provided with a Statement of Financial Interests form each year as a Member of the Cheyney University Board of Trustees. b. Wells was aware of the process for filing a Statement of Financial Interests each year as a Member of the Cheyney University Board of Trustees. C. Wells confirmed that he backdated his Statement of Financial Interests forms for calendar years 2015 and 2016 to reflect the forms were timely filed. 25. On October 30, 2018, Wells filed amendedlcorrected Statements of Financial Interests with the State Ethics Commission for calendar years 2014 through 2017. a. Wells' submitted forms contained no deficiencies. b. Wells voluntarily submitted amended/corrected Statements of Financial Interests prior to the issuance of the Investigative ComplaintlFindings Report. III. DISCUSSION; As a Member of the Board of Trustees of Cheyney University of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education since approximately April 30, 2012, Respondent Joseph Wells, also referred to herein as "Respondent," "Respondent Wells," and "Wells," has been a public official subject to the provisions of the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act ( "Ethics Act "), 65 Pa. C.S. § 1101 et sec. The allegations are that Wells violated Sections 1104(a) and 1105(a) of the Ethics Act when he failed to timely file Statement of Financial Interests forms for the 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 calendar years; and when he subsequently filed backdated Statement of Financial Interests forms for calendar years 2015 and 2016 to give the impression that forms for those calendar years were timely filed. Section 1104(a) of the Ethics Act provides that each public official /public employee must file a Statement of Financial Interests for the preceding calendar year, each year that he holds the position and the year after he leaves it. Section 1105(a) of the Ethics Act provides that the Statement of Financial Interests shall be filed on the form prescribed by this Commission; that all information requested on the form shall be provided to the best of the knowledge, information and belief of the filer; and that the form shall be signed under oath or equivalent affirmation. As noted above, the parties have submitted a Consent Agreement and Stipulation of Findings. The parties' Stipulated Findings are set forth above as the Findings of this Commission. We shall now summarize the relevant facts as contained therein. Wells, 18 -035 F e6 Wells has served as a Member of the Board of Trustees of Cheyney University since approximate) April 30, 2012. Cheyney University is part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education ("PASSHE"). As a Member of the Cheyney University Board of Trustees, Wells is required to annually file a Statement of Financial Interests by May 1. Each year this Commission contracts for the printing of blank Statement of Financial Interests forms. Each year the printed forms bear a revision number that enables this Commission to determine when the forms were printed. Each year the Administrative Division of this Commission receives the printed forms from the printer in December, prior to January 1 of the filing year. Forms are then bulk mailed to municipalities, boards, commissions, and state agencies within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Statement of Financial Interests forms were mailed to Cheyney University for each filing year from 2013 through 2017. Ramona Dixon ("Dixon") as the Cheyney University Executive Associate to the President, distributed the Statement of Financial Interests forms to each Member of the Cheyney University Board of Trustees, including Wells, via email. Each Member of the Cheyney University Board of Trustees was responsible for accurately completing the Statement of Financial Interests form and filing it with this Commission. On June 4, 2018, this Commission conducted a compliance review of Statement of Financial Interests forms for Members of the Cheyney University Board of Trustees. The records of this Commission included a Statement of Financial Interests filed by Wells for calendar year 2013. On June 19, 2018, this Commission provided PASSHE with a list of individuals who had failed to file Statement of Financial interests forms as Members of the Board of Trustees of a PASSHE university. The list provided to PASSHE identified Wells as having failed to file Statements of Financial Interests for calendar years 2014 through 2017 as a Member of the Cheyney University Board of Trustees. On June 21, 2018, legal counsel for PASSHE contacted Dixon via email to notify her that Wells had failed to file Statements of Financial Interests for calendar years 2014 through 2017 with this Commission. Dixon then notified Wells via email that no Statements of Financial Interests for him for calendar years 2014 through 2017 were on file with this Commission. On June 28, 2018, Wells and Dixon submitted Wells' Statements of Financial Interests for calendar years 2015, 2016, and 2017 to PASSHE via email. On June 29, 2018, PASSHE submitted Wells' Statements of Financial Interests for calendar years 2015, 2016, and 2017 to this Commission via email. Wells' Statements of Financial Interests for calendar years 2015 and 2016 were signed with purported dates of completion of 4/25/2015 and 5/0112016, respectively. The Statements of Financial Interests for calendar years 2015 and 2016 were completed using forms with the revision number of SECA, REV. 01117. It was impossible for Wells to have completed the Statement of Financial Interests forms for calendar years 2015 and 2016 on the dates purported because the SECA , REV. 01117 form was not printed and distributed until December 28, 2016. Wells backdated his Statement of Financial Interests forms for calendar years 2015 and 2016 to give the appearance that the forms were timely filed. (We note that although the Stipulated Findings provide that Wells also backdated his Statement of Financial Interests form for calendar year 2017 to give the appearance that the form was timely filed, such conduct is not encompassed within the allegations in the instant matter.) On October 30, 2018, Wells filed amend edlcorrected Statements of Financial Interests for calendar years 2014 through 2017 with this Commission. The forms submitted by Wells contained no deficiencies. Wells, 18 -035 T55-g-e-7 Having highlighted the Stipulated Findings and issues before us, we shall now apply the Ethics Act to determine the proper disposition of this case. The parties' Consent Agreement sets forth a proposed resolution of the allegations as follows: The Investigative Division will recommend the following in relation to the above allegations: a. That a violation of Section 1104(a) of the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act, 65 Pa.C.S. § 1104(a), occurred when Wells failed to timely file Statement of Financial Interests forms for the 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 calendar years. b. That a violation of Section 1105(a) of the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act, 65 Pa.C.S. § 1105(a), occurred when Wells failed to timely file Statement of Financial Interests forms for the 2015 and 2016 calendar years and subsequently backdated those filings to give the impression that the forms were timely filed. Wells agrees to make payment in the amount of $500.00 in settlement of this matter payable to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and forwarded to the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission within thirty (30) days of the issuance of the final adjudication in this matter. Wells agrees to not accept any reimbursement, compensation or other payment from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education representing a full or partial reimbursement of the amount paid in settlement of this matter. The Investigative Division will recommend that the State Ethics Commission take no further action in this matter; and make no specific recommendations to any law enforcement or other authonty to take action in this matter. Such, however, does not prohibit the Commission from initiating appropriate enforcement actions in the event of Respondent's failure to comply with this agreement or the Commission's order or cooperating with any other authority who may so choose to review this matter further. Consent Agreement, at 1 -2. In considering the Consent Agreement, we agree with the parties, and we hold, that a violation of Section 1104(a) of the Ethics Act, 65 Pa.C.S. § 1104(a), occurred when Wells failed to timely file Statement of Financial Interests forms for the 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 calendar years. We further agree with the parties, and we hold, that a violation of Section 1105(a) of the Ethics Act, 65 Pa.C.S. § 1105(a), occurred when Wells failed to timely file Statement of Financial Interests forms for the 2015 and 2016 calendar years and subsequently backdated those filings to give the impression that the forms were timely filed. Wells, 18035 rage 8 As part of the Consent Agreement, Wells has agreed to make payment in the amount of $500.00 payable to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with such payment forwarded to this ommission within thirty (30) days of the issuance of the final adjudication in this matter. Wells has further agreed to not accept any reimbursement, compensation or other payment from PASSHE representing a full or partial reimbursement of the amount paid in settlement of this matter. We determine that the Consent Agreement submitted by the parties sets forth a proper disposition for this case, based upon our review as reflected in the above analysis and the totality of the facts and circumstances. Per the Consent Agreement of the parties, Wells is directed to make payment in the amount of $500.00 payable to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with such payment forwarded to this Commission by no later than the thirtieth (30,11) day after the mailing date of this adjudication and Order. Per the Consent Agreement of the parties, Wells is further directed to not accept any reimbursement, compensation or other payment from PASSHE representing a full or partial reimbursement of the amount paid in settlement of this matter. Compliance with the foreggoing will result in the closing of this case with no further action by this Commission. fVoncompliance will result in the institution of an order enforcement action. IV. CONCLUSIONS OF LAW: 1. As a Member of the Board of Trustees of Cheyney Universityy, of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education since approximately April 30, 2012, Respondent Joseph Wells ( "Wells ") has been a public official subject to the provisions of the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act ( "Ethics Act "), 65 Pa.C.S. § 1101 et seg. 2. Wells violated Section 1104(a) of the Ethics Act, 65 Pa.C.S. § 1104(a), when he failed to timely file Statement of Financial Interests forms for the 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 calendar years. 3. A violation of Section 1105(a) of the Ethics Act, 65 Pa.C.S. § 1105(a), occurred when Wells failed to timely file Statement of Financial Interests forms for the 2015 and 2016 calendar ears and subsequently backdated those filings to give the impression that the forms were timely filed. In Re: Joseph Wells, File Docket: 18 -035 Respondent Date Decided: 2/6119 Date Mailed: 2113119 1. As a Member of the Board of Trustees of Cheyne)r University of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, Joseph Wells ('Wells") violated Section 1104(a) of the Public Official and Employee Ethics Act ("Ethics Act "), 65 Pa.C.S. § 1104(a), when he failed to timely file Statement of Financial Interests forms for the 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 calendar years. 2. A violation of Section 1105(a) of the Ethics Act, 65 Pa.C.S. § 1105(a), occurred when Wells failed to timely file Statement of Financial Interests forms for the 2015 and 2016 calendar years and subsequently backdated those filings to give the impression that the forms were timely filed. 3. Per the Consent Agreement of the parties, Wells is directed to make payment in the amount of $500.00 payable to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with such payment forwarded to the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission by no later than the thirtieth (30th) day after the mailing date of this Order. 4. Per the Consent Agreement of the parties, Wells is further directed to not accept any reimbursement, compensation or other payment from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education representing a full or partial reimbursement of the amount paid in settlement of this matter. 5. Compliance with paragraphs 3 and 4 of this Order will result in the closing of this case with no further action by this Commission. a. Non - compliance will result in the institution of an order enforcement action. BT *- COMMISSION, xmxw Fn