- Model Code
- Lab Tools
- Contact Us
You are here
Double-Dipping: Two Ways It Works ... and Hurts the Public
Thursday, March 15th, 2007
Double-dipping occurs when someone holds two government jobs, usually at two different levels of government. This is not legal in many states, and for a good reason. It sets up many possible conflicts of interest, not the least of which is that when you're doing one job, you're not doing the other. It sometimes means actually dealing with yourself, wearing both your hats at once. It leads to a lot of pork-barrel spending, as local officials use their state power and local connections to direct state grant money. And it means that citizens have to pay out two or more pensions to the same individual (although this can happen with successive jobs, as well).
The most important conflict is that you cannot consistently fulfill your fiduciary obligations to one constituency while fulfilling your obligations to the other. A municipal official's obligations are to the residents of the municipality. When that individual also holds a state job, is it his or her obligation to get as much as possible for the town? If so, then the official's obligations to the rest of the state constituency are not being fulfilled. The same goes for city and county.
This conflict of obligations is why our state assemblies are not simply assemblies of mayors. Mayors have their assemblies, but they are interest groups, not legislatures.
Double-dipping is something that distinguishes France. Many members of the national legislature are also mayors. Not former mayors, but present mayors. It might be healthy for, say, New Jersey to have a good public debate about whether they want to emulate the French, but I don't think they're having that sort of debate. Double-dipping is increasingly under attack there and elsewhere, but it is in the interest of so many public officials, it's hard to end.
Notice that: 'in the interest of so many public officials.' Public officials should be acting not in their personal interest, or even solely in the interest of their municipalities (if they have a state position), but in the public interest. In the interest of a public, not two publics.
Double-dipping is also used for purely selfish results, increasing one's income without increasing one's workload, and especially increasing one's income as retirement approaches, so that one's pension will be higher. Here's a March 15, 2007 press release from Massachusetts, which speaks for itself.
The Massachusetts State Ethics Commission's Enforcement Division issued an Order to Show Cause alleging that former Brockton police officer Charles Lincoln violated the state's conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A. A public hearing will be scheduled within 90 days.
According to the Order to Show Cause, Lincoln was a full-time Brockton police officer from 1972 until January 2004. Between January 2001 and January 2004, Lincoln also served as the full-time Director of Security at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility for the Plymouth County Sheriff's Department. During the three years that Lincoln was employed simultaneously by both departments, he used a total of approximately 251 sick leave days, 222 from Brockton and 29 from Plymouth County, claiming he was sick, injured or caring for ill members of his family. On 148 of the days Lincoln called in sick in Brockton, he worked a full shift in Plymouth. On seven days he called in sick in Plymouth, he worked a full shift in Brockton. The Commission's Enforcement Division alleges he used these 155 sick days 'to lessen the demands of holding two full-time positions.'
Upon retirement in January 2004, the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission calculated Lincoln's annual retirement allowance at $139,787 based on Lincoln's average combined salary, $177,569, for his last three years of employment, in accordance with the law governing retirement, G.L. c. 32 5.
Section 23(b)(2) of the conflict law prohibits a public employee from using or attempting to use his position to secure for himself or others an unwarranted privilege of substantial value not properly available to similarly situated individuals.
By using his dual positions to receive 155 days of sick leave pay for purposes that were not legitimate and by inflating his retirement benefits by abusing sick time, Lincoln allegedly violated G.L. c. 268A, 23(b)(2).
A joint motion to stay the proceedings has been filed by the Enforcement Division and Lincoln pending the resolution of two other related matters: United States v. Charles Bradshaw Lincoln and City of Brockton v. Charles B. Lincoln.
Director of Research, City Ethics