Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1995-5

Advisory Opinion No. 1995-5
Advisory Opinion No. 1995-5

 Effect Of Ethics Code On Deputy Commissioner
Of Department Of Veterans Affairs Also
Serving As Selectman In

S. Derek Phelps, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Office of Advocacy and Assistance, has asked how the Code of Ethics for Public Officials, Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-79 et seq., affects his ability to serve in his state capacity while also serving as a Selectman for the town of Waterford.  Although the Code does not contain a blanket prohibition against the acceptance of outside employment, there are a number of restrictions which may apply.

First, a public official’s state responsibilities must take precedence over any outside employment.  Of course, the non-state work must not be performed on state time.  Also, the Code prohibits the acceptance of outside employment which would impair the independence of judgment of the official with regard to his or her state duties.  See Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(b).  So, for example, if the outside job interferes with the state official’s ability to perform his or her state job properly (e.g., is time-consuming or requires frequent absences), then Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(b) is violated, and the outside work should be discontinued.  Mr. Phelps states that he is the minority-party member of a three-member Board of Selectmen.  He is paid $1000.00 per year for his participation.  The Board usually meets twice a month in the evening.  Thus, it does not appear that his acceptance of the municipal position will interfere in this manner with the performance of his state duties.

Secondly, if in his state position, Mr. Phelps is required to make recommendations or decisions regarding the disbursement of a limited quantity of state funds to various municipalities, including Waterford, his position with Waterford could inadvertently impair his independence of judgment under 1-84(b).  To avoid the possible conflict, if such an issue should arise, Mr. Phelps can simply turn the particular matter over to the Commissioner to handle personally or assign to another Deputy Commissioner.

Thirdly, Conn. Gen. Stat. 5-266a-1 bars classified state employees from holding elective municipal office under certain circumstances.  Mr. Phelps is an appointed official rather than a classified state employee, however.  Therefore, this restriction does not apply to him.

Finally, the State Ethics Commission notes that Conn. Gen. Stat. 4-8, a section of state law outside the jurisdiction of this Commission, states that a deputy appointed by a department head “shall devote full time to their duties with the department or agency and shall engage in no other gainful employment.”  Mr. Phelps should check with the Office of the Attorney General to determine that his municipal position will not conflict with this additional requirement.

By order of the Commission,

Rev. William Sangiovanni

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:01:11 AM