Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1993-15

Advisory Opinion No. 1993-15
Advisory Opinion No. 1993-15

Effect Of Merger Of State Agencies On One-Year
Prohibition Against Appearing Before Former Agency

State Ethics Commission Staff Attorney Marianne D. Smith has asked how the one-year prohibition against appearing before one’s former agency, Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84b(b), will apply to a former employee of the Department of Income Maintenance (“DIM”), once that agency has been merged with several other current state agencies to form the new “Department of Social Services” (“DSS”).

Under 1-84b(b), no former executive branch or quasi-public agency public official or state employee may, for one year after leaving state service, represent anyone, other than the state, for compensation before the department, agency, board, commission, council or office in which he served at the time of his termination of service, concerning any matter in which the state has a substantial interest.  In its 1993 session, the General Assembly passed legislation which will combine DIM and several other agencies to form a new “Department of Social Services.”  The question then arises, if the former employee’s department or agency no longer exists in its original form, to what entity, if any, does the one-year ban apply?

Although the agency may no longer exist as an independent entity, if the people who made up the old agency are still employed by the state, performing the same or similar work, then the purpose of 1-84b(b) must still be served.  That purpose is to provide a “cooling-off period” to prevent contact that may result in preferential treatment by virtue of the individual’s former status at the agency in question.  “Whether or not the matter involved is one with which the individual had contact as a public employee is irrelevant.  The undue influence guarded against is that which results from mere association with the former agency.”  Report to the General Assembly by the Codes of Ethics Study Committee, January 15, 1983, p. 21.  Contact with one’s former agency is, after all, simply contact with the people at the agency.

Therefore, with regard to the specific question raised, if, after the reorganization, DIM as a whole is easily discernible as a division of the new “super” agency, DSS, then the former DIM employee is prohibited from appearing before only that division of DSS.  If, however, as appears to be the case, the functions and subdivisions of DIM are intertwined with those of  the other agencies involved in order to form the new agency, then the one-year ban of 1-84b(b) will apply to DSS as a whole.  This is so even though the former employee’s particular subdivision or unit might be readily identifiable, since the one-year ban applies to all of DIM and not to the employee’s former unit alone.  See, for example, Advisory Opinion No. 87-11, 49 Conn. L.J. No. 10, p. 1C (9/8/87).

By order of the Commission,

Christopher T. Donohue

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