LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Lanesborough Economic Development Committee Chair and Planning Board member Barbara Davis-Hassan paid a $30,000 penalty for violating the state's conflict of interest law.
The State Ethics Commission has issued a final decision and order allowing a joint motion to dismiss and approving a disposition agreement in which Davis-Hassan admits to violating the conflict of interest law by participating as a Planning Board member in a proposal to rezone the Berkshire Mall while she privately had an exclusive marketing agreement to sell the property, by representing the mall's owner in local tax and infrastructure matters, and by participating as a Planning Board member in a proposal to rezone a second property while privately serving as its listing agent.
The commission accepted Davis-Hassan's payment of a $30,000 civil penalty and dismissed the adjudicatory proceeding against her.
Davis-Hassan, who owns and operates Barb Hassan Realty, had an exclusive marketing agreement to lease space in or sell the Berkshire Mall when she participated as a Planning Board member in a proposal to rezone the mall property to facilitate redevelopment. After Lanesborough town meeting approved the rezoning, the mall sold in July 2022 for $8 million and Davis-Hassan received a $240,000 commission on the sale.
Through these actions as a Planning Board member, Davis-Hassan violated the conflict of interest law's prohibition against public employees participating officially in matters in which they or their business have a financial interest. In addition to her actions concerning the mall property, Davis-Hassan also violated this prohibition in 2020, when she participated as a Planning Board member in discussing a proposal to rezone a Williamstown Road property for which she was the listing agent. That property later sold for $250,000, and Davis-Hassan received a $25,000 commission on the sale.
The conflict of interest law also prohibits municipal employees from acting as agent for anyone other than the municipality in connection with matters in which the municipality is a party or has a direct and substantial interest. Davis-Hassan violated this prohibition by representing Berkshire Mall owner Durga Property Holdings Inc. in Lanesborough-related matters in 2019 and 2020.
During this time, Davis-Hassan appeared on Durga's behalf before the Baker Hill Road District (BHRD), an entity that assesses and collects taxes on properties within the district for road maintenance and municipal services.
In at least one of her appearances, Davis-Hassan asked questions intended to demonstrate that the BHRD should be dissolved. She later, on behalf of Durga, sent draft proposals to the Lanesborough town manager to dissolve the BHRD, and communicated with the town manager and a member of the Legislature on behalf of Durga regarding the dissolution of the BHRD. Davis-Hassan also applied to the Lanesborough Board of Assessors for a tax abatement on Durga's behalf, appeared for Durga before the Board of Assessors regarding the tax abatement application, and, on behalf of Durga, emailed the Lanesborough Board of Selectmen regarding an application for a grant to address water and sewer concerns at the mall.