Attorney General: Chairman Reginald J. Smith, Department of Public Utility Control, 1996-017 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

December 5, 1996

Chairman Reginald J. Smith
Commissioner's Office
Department of Public Utility Control
One Central Park Plaza
New Britain, CT 06051

Dear Chairman Smith:

You have asked whether Commissioners of the Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC) may accept post-State service employment by a subsidiary of a public service company or of a company certified to provide intrastate telecommunications services if the subsidiary is not itself a public service company or is not a company certified to provide telecommunications services within Connecticut. According to the following analysis, we conclude that Commissioners are prohibited by Conn. Gen. Stat.  16-2(k) from accepting employment with an unregulated subsidiary company of a public service company or with a subsidiary of a company certified to provide intrastate telecommunications services within one year following termination of their state employment.1

Conn. Gen. Stat.  16-2(k) prohibits Department of Public Utility Control Commissioners, for one year after termination of service as a commissioner, from accepting employment with, or lobbying for, a public service company or a telecommunications company certified by the Department of Public Utility Control to provide intrastate telecommunications services. However, since Connecticut courts have never had the occasion to review the provisions of  16-2(k) or any other provision of  16-2 we must look elsewhere for help in determining the breadth of the post State service limitation. In such circumstances, guidance in interpreting the meaning of a statute may be obtained from the interpretation given to laws relating to the same subject matter. Connecticut Light and Power Company v. Costle, 179 Conn. 415, 422 (1988).

The ethics constraints found in Conn. Gen. Stat.  1-84b(c)(2),2 which bars certain former state agency officials from "accepting employment with a business subject to regulation by his agency," closely tracks the language of Conn. Gen. Stat.  16-2(k).3 Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84b (c)(2) provides:

No former public official or state employee who held such a position in the executive branch shall within one year after leaving an agency, accept employment with a business subject to regulation by that agency.

Conn. Gen. Stat. 16-2(k) states in pertinent part:

No Commissioner of the authority shall accept employment by a public service company or . . . by a person firm or corporation certified by the department of public utility control to provide intrastate telecommunications services pursuant to section 16-247f to 16-247h, inclusive . . . for a period of one year following the termination of his or her service as a Commissioner.

With such parallel provisions between the Department of Public Utility Control ethics provisions and the State Ethics Code, we can look to the interpretations of the sister legislation for assistance in interpreting the statutory language in question.

Where the State Ethics Commission has had an opportunity to opine on questions concerning post-State employment, it has relied on the purpose of the revolving door statute to support its conclusion:

"The goal of this revolving door legislation is to decrease the likelihood that an official will tailor his conduct in office to enhance his opportunities for subsequent private employment in the same field. A managed 'cooling off' period between termination of public service and entry into the same field for a private concern renders an official less likely to curry favor with private employers during his government service. It also reduces the appearance that government was 'bought out' by private concerns seeking special advantage. The Code of Ethics Study Committee Report to The General Assembly Of 1983, at p. 21 (1983). "

In Re. Application of Conn. Gen. Stat.  1-84(b)(c)(2) to Acceptance of Employment With the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe's Gaming Enterprise, Advisory Opinion 92-22, Sept. 14, 1992.

When faced with the somewhat analogous question of whether a public official may accept employment with an out-of-state office of a regulated industry within one year of terminating state employment, the Ethics Commission focused on the purpose underlying the restriction, and concluded that such employment would violate the strictures of Conn. Gen. Stat.  1-84b(c)(2), notwithstanding that the out-of-state employment would involve no contact with the individual's former state agency: "The purpose of  1-84b(c), to minimize the effect a State servant's interest in subsequent private employment will have on the performance of his or her public duties, would be defeated by permitting out-of-state or foreign employment by a regulated business." Advisory Opinion No. 95-2, "Application of Conn. Gen. Stat.  1-84b(c) To Out-of-State Employment".

The same considerations support a similar result here. If a public service company or certified telecommunications company could offer employment to a Commissioner with an unregulated subsidiary, then it could, in effect, work to defeat the goals of the statute by encouraging the Commissioner to act favorably on matters affecting the parent. This would effectively negate the salutary purpose of the statute. It is well settled that statutes should be construed to give effect to the legislative intent. State v. Smith, 207 Conn. 152, 168 (1988).

I trust this answers your question.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL

ATTORNEY GENERAL

RB//tb


1 For purposes of this opinion, it is assumed that the unregulated subsidiary or affiliated company is a corporation that is wholly or substantially owned by a Connecticut regulated public service company or by a company certified by the DPUC to provide intrastate telecommunications services.

2 This advice does not purport to interpret the restrictions included in Conn. Gen. Stat.  1-84b.

3 Conn. Gen. Stat.  16-2(k) parallels Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84b(c)(2) in prohibiting post service employment with a regulated business for one year, but is even more expansive than 1-84b in restricting former commissioners from lobbying activities with regard to governmental regulation of public service companies for one year. In addition it contains restrictions concerning practicing before the Department of Public Utility Control if the former commissioner is an attorney.


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