Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1994-8

Advisory Opinion No. 1994-8
Advisory Opinion No. 1994-8

Outside Employment While On Leave Of Absence

The petitioner, in her current employment with the Department of Public Health and Addiction Services, Hospital and Medical Care Division, is a Supervising Nurse Consultant in a federal program which regulates long-term care facilities.  The petitioner anticipates that she will soon be required to take a medical leave of absence from her state position, and has asked the Commission what limitations, if any, the Code of Ethics imposes upon employment she may undertake while on leave from state service.

In Advisory Opinion No. 86-8 (48 C.L.J. No. 6, p. 1D (August 5, 1986)), the State Ethics Commission concluded that “a State employee on leave of absence is considered in state employment.”  Therefore, it is the Code’s limitations on outside employment, not its post-state employment restrictions, which will apply to the petitioner’s employment while on leave.

Connecticut General Statutes 1-84(b) is designed to prevent conflicts of interest with state employment by prohibiting the acceptance of other employment which will either impair a state employee’s independence of judgment with respect to his or her state duties or which will result in the disclosure of confidential information acquired in the course of his or her state service.  In addition, under Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(c), a state employee may not use his or her public position or confidential information acquired as a result of such position to obtain financial gain for himself or herself or for a business with which he or she is associated.

As a Supervising Nurse Consultant, the petitioner undoubtedly has access to sensitive, possibly confidential, information.  The petitioner may not use such information to identify a potential employer, nor may she accept employment which would threaten the confidentiality of such information.  In her state position the petitioner is also undoubtedly called upon to take actions, or make decisions, concerning the long-term care facilities which the Department regulates.  In general, accepting employment with such a facility would impermissibly impair the petitioner’s independence of judgment in her state position, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(b).  Obversely, accepting employment with another type of entity, such as a school or a hospital, would generally be a permissible use, for financial gain, of the petitioner’s expertise in the fields of health care and/or education.

If the petitioner should pursue state contracts, she must be aware, while she continues to be a state employee, that any state contract valued at $100 or more may only be awarded to her through an open and public process, pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(i).  The term “open and public process” as used in 1-84(i) means that there must a prior public offer and subsequent public disclosure of all proposals considered and the contract awarded.  The requirements of 1-84(i) would not apply if the petitioner were to be offered a position as a state employee in lieu of, or in addition to, her position with the Department of Public Health.

Although it is highly unlikely that the petitioner’s outside employment would involve such activities, it is worth mentioning that Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(d) prohibits a state employee from representing another person, for compensation, before certain state agencies, and also prohibits the acceptance of employment with a firm which does so.

By order of the Commission,

Christopher T. Donohue

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