Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1996-12

Advisory Opinion No. 1996-12
Advisory Opinion No. 1996-12

High Sheriff’s Use of State-Paid Clerical Staff

Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 6-33, a High Sheriff receives a salary from the State of Connecticut “in full compensation for the performance of all duties required by law to be performed by [him], except for the service of civil process, for which service any [high] sheriff shall be entitled to receive and retain the fees therefore provided by law.”  The fees and expenses which may be charged for the service of process are enumerated in Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-261 and 52-261a, and are identical for high sheriffs who are compensated pursuant to 6-33 and provided with a clerical staff, and for deputy sheriffs, who are provided with neither a statutory salary nor a state-employed staff.

In State Ethics Commission Docket No. 93-1, the Commission found that a high sheriff was not entitled to use his state-paid secretarial staff to perform clerical duties associated with his service of process, the administrative expense of such service being his own, not the State’s, responsibility.  The petitioner has asked how the above limitation on a high sheriff’s use of state-paid clerical staff affects the staff’s performance of routine office duties, such as opening mail which may contain requests for service of process, or responding to telephone or in-person requests for such services.

The Commission finds that the administrative office of a high sheriff serves as an obvious focal point for persons seeking sheriff services of all descriptions.  As a result, members of a high sheriff’s state-paid administrative staff will inevitably and appropriately be called upon to interact with the public in person, in writing and by telephone, in connection with requests for service of process.  However, the receipt of a request, as described above, is distinguishable from the typing of a return and the photocopying of documents, for which services a client pays specific fees, and the preparation and processing of the bills which a sheriff or deputy sheriff must generate in order to collect his or her fees.  The former duties are inseparable from the responsibilities of the administrative office of high sheriff and are properly executed by state-paid staff.  The latter tasks are the responsibility of the sheriff or deputy sheriff who undertakes the service of process, and the attendant expenses, including clerical expenses, must be borne by the sheriff or deputy sheriff who profits thereby.

By order of the Commission,

David T. Nassef

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:01:37 AM