Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1995-8

Advisory Opinion No. 1995-8
Advisory Opinion No. 1995-8

University Professor’s Acceptance Of Outside
Employment As Probate Judge

The petitioner is a professor at the University of Connecticut and has been a probate judge since 1990.  He has asked whether the State Ethics Commission’s ruling in Advisory Opinion No. 94-22, 56 Conn. L.J. No. 22, p. 5D (November 29, 1994), applies to “unclassified” state employees and/or persons whose attendance schedules are flexible.  The petitioner’s teaching schedule is such that, with the knowledge and permission of the University, he has established probate court office hours from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. three days a week and by appointment.

In Advisory Opinion No. 94-22 the Commission considered the petition of a full-time state employee seeking election as a probate judge.  In that case, the employee intended to defer to evenings and weekends any demands imposed by his probate judgeship, in order to accommodate his state work schedule.  However, in light of a probate judge’s responsibility to give precedence to judicial matters over all others, the Commission found that pressing probate business would inevitably, and impermissibly, force the individual to relegate his state employment to a subordinate role.

The petitioner has suggested that as an unclassified employee he is not subject to the Code of Ethics for Public Officials and that his employment activities are within the sole jurisdiction of the Board of Trustees of the University of Connecticut.  However, for purposes of the Code of Ethics, a state employee is “any employee in the executive, legislative or judicial branch of state government, whether in the classified or unclassified service and whether full or part-time.”  The petitioner is therefore a “state employee” and fully subject to the Code of Ethics in general, and the Code’s limits on outside employment, in particular.  The laws, by-laws and rules of the University may supplement, but may not supplant, the Code of Ethics for Public Officials.

The facts of the instant case are clearly distinguishable from those which were the subject of Advisory Opinion No. 94-22.  As a professor, the petitioner is not required to devote seven (or more) consecutive hours each day to his academic duties, and, with the exception of his class schedule, it is not necessary that such duties (i.e., class preparation, consultations with students, etc.), be carried out at a particular hour of the day.  The flexibility of the petitioner’s University schedule already permits access to the probate court during the business day on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.  If necessary, the same flexibility would allow the petitioner to meet emergency demands of the probate court without compromising the priority of his state employment.  The Commission therefore concludes that outside employment as a probate judge does not impermissibly impair the petitioner’s independence of judgment within the meaning of Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(b).

As an unclassified state employee, the petitioner is not subject to Conn. Gen. Stat. 5-266a(c), which precludes a classified state employee from holding elective state office.  It is not necessary to address the petitioner’s claim that the Code’s limits on outside employment violate the Federal and State Constitutions.

By order of the Commission,

Rev. William Sangiovanni

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