Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1994-21

Advisory Opinion No. 1994-21
Advisory Opinion No. 1994-21

Effect Of Outside Employment Restrictions On
Proposed Preparation Of Private Publication By
Department Of Public Works Employee For
Sale To
Design Professionals

Jonathan Humble, a licensed architect and employee of the Department of Public Works (“DPW”), has asked whether, under the Code of Ethics for Public Officials, Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-79 et seq., he may publish a compilation of the State Building Inspector’s Clarifications to the State Building Code.  Mr. Humble is a Project Coordinator II at DPW; his duties include negotiating and contracting with outside architects and engineers for state projects, monitoring the funds and budgets of projects and approving and/or denying invoices from the architects and engineers.

Mr. Humble also serves on the state Codes and Standards Committee.  The Committee and the State Building Inspector jointly administer the State Building Code.  Conn. Gen. Stat. 29-252(a).  At any citizen’s request, the State Building Inspector will provide an interpretation of the State Building Code.  Conn. Gen. Stat. 29-252(c).  An interpretation which addresses a specific problem is called a clarification.  It is these “clarifications” which Mr. Humble wishes to compile into a guide for sale to “a targeted audience of design professionals, code officials and building owners.”

Mr. Humble’s proposed publication raises a serious concern under the Code of Ethics.  As a DPW employee, Mr. Humble is constantly interacting with the very design professionals to whom he wishes to sell his guide.  These professionals want Mr. Humble to approve their state contracts, and even to approve their invoices for payment under those contracts.  It is unrealistic to suppose that Mr. Humble’s state position will not influence these individuals’ decision to purchase his publication.  The Code of Ethics prohibits  the use of a state employee’s public office or position, however inadvertent, to obtain financial gain for himself.  Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(c).  Thus, Mr. Humble may not prepare a publication for sale to the group of individuals with whom he deals in his state capacity.  See State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 88-16, 50 Conn. L.J. No. 15, p. 5D, (10/11/88), (Fair Housing Coordinator may not teach fair housing course to real estate professionals over whom she wields official authority.)

Mr. Humble’s position on the Codes and Standards Committee may also be problematic, but need not be addressed since Mr. Humble’s work at DPW precludes his publication for sale of the guide he has proposed.

By order of the Commission,

R.E. VanNorstrand

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:00:43 AM