Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1993-11

Advisory Opinion No. 1993-11
Advisory Opinion No. 1993-11

 Negotiation Of Union Contracts By State Employee
Who May Become Member Of The

Dr. David Newton, Vice President for Personnel at the Connecticut State University, is the chief management collective bargaining negotiator for the Connecticut State University Board of Trustees in their dealings with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).  The AAUP is the union that represents teaching faculty.  Dr. Newton is the former President of AAUP and has the option, pursuant to his employment contract, to return to the faculty.  Mr. Robert M. Drobish, former Registrar at Western New England State University, has asked if negotiating a contract in one’s state position which may affect the individual’s future salary and benefits is prohibited by the Code of Ethics for Public Officials.

In general, the Code of Ethics for Public Officials attempts to prevent public officials and state employees from using the authority of their state position for the financial benefit of themselves, their families, or their businesses.  See Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(a), 1-84(c), 1-84(d), 1-84(i), 1-84(f), 1-85, and 1-86(a).  The applicable Code sections regarding a state employee’s conflict in the discharge of his duties or employment are Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-85 and 1-86(a).

Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-85 states that there is substantial conflict of interest when a state employee takes official action if he has reason to believe or expect that he will derive a direct monetary gain or loss by reason of his official activity, unless any benefit or detriment accrues to him as a member of a profession, occupation, or group to no greater extent than any other member of such profession, occupation or group.  A state employee who has a substantial conflict of interest may not take official action on the matter.  The term direct means absolute, immediate, or without intervening conditions.  State Ethics Commission Declaratory Ruling 92-C, December 7, 1992.  In this instance, the financial impact would not be direct unless Dr. Newton fully intended to return to his faculty position after the contract negotiations were concluded.  Furthermore, any benefit or detriment would affect all members of the profession, i.e. faculty members covered by the AAUP contract, in the same way.  Therefore, Dr. Newton does not have a substantial conflict, under the Code.

In pertinent part under Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-86(a), a potential conflict of interest exists when a state employee would be required in the discharge of his official duties to take an action that would affect his financial interest.  Unlike a substantial conflict, there is no requirement that the financial impact either be direct or affect the individual differently from other members of his profession, occupation, or group.  However, there still must be a reasonable expectation on the part of the individual that there will be some financial impact based on his actions.  Dr. Newton has stated that it is standard practice at the University to offer administrative positions with the option to return as a faculty member.  He has also stated that it is not his expectation to return as a faculty member.  Therefore, Dr. Newton does not have a potential conflict absent any evidence that he expects to return as a faculty member during the term of the contract in question.

If a potential conflict should exist, the individual must prepare a written statement signed under penalty of false statement describing the matter requiring action and the nature of the conflict and deliver a copy of the statement to his immediate superior, if any, who shall assign the matter to another employee, or if he has no immediate superior, he shall take such steps as the commission shall prescribe or advise.  Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-86(a).

By order of the Commission,

Christopher T. Donohue

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 7:59:47 AM