Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1993-4

Advisory Opinion No. 1993-4
Advisory Opinion No. 1993-4

 Legislator Taking Official Action On Bills Which May
Affect Spouse’s Employer

Mr. Roger Cook is Vice President of E.G. & G. WASC, Inc., a defense subcontractor.  His job responsibilities include seeking ways to diversify to commercial work.  His spouse, State Senator Catherine Cook,  a member of the Commerce Committee, has asked if she may vote on bills which deal with manufacturing assistance and defense diversification.  Senator Cook has stated that she and her spouse hold only a small number of shares of stock in the company.

The applicable Code section regarding a conflict for a legislator taking official action on a bill is Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-85.  With exceptions not pertinent, that section prohibits a public official, including an elected state official, from taking official action if she has reason to believe or expect that she, her spouse, or a business with which she is associated will derive a direct monetary gain or suffer a direct monetary loss, as the case may be, by reason of her official activity.  A “business with which he is associated” includes a corporation in which the legislator or a member of her immediate family is a paid director, officer, owner, or holder of five percent or more of the total outstanding stock.  Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-79(b).  “Officer” refers only to the president, executive or senior vice president or treasurer of such business.  Id.

E.G. & G. WASC, Inc. is not a business with which the Senator is associated, for purposes of the Code, since neither she nor her spouse hold five percent or more of the total outstanding stock and Mr. Cook is neither a director nor one of the requisite officers.  In this matter, Mr. Cook’s employer may well benefit from the passage of any favorable defense or manufacturing assistance bills; but, in general, such legislation would not have any direct financial impact on either Senator Cook or her spouse.

The Commission has previously ruled that the Code does not specifically prohibit a public official from taking official action which would benefit one’s employer, unless the employer had improperly influenced the legislator.  “In the Matter of a Request for a Declaratory Ruling,” No. 92-C, Daniel J. Devlin, December 7, 1992.  See also, State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 90-6, 51 Conn. L.J. No. 35, p. 3D (2/27/90).  Similarly, the Code does not prohibit a public official from taking action which would benefit a spouse’s employer, unless the employer had improperly influenced the public official, either directly or indirectly through the spouse.  Therefore, absent any information to the contrary, it is permissible for Senator Cook to take official action on legislation dealing with defense diversification or manufacturing assistance even if such action will simultaneously fulfill her spouse’s stated job objectives.

By order of the Commission,

Christopher T. Donohue
Chairperson



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