Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1996-13

Advisory Opinion No. 1996-13
Advisory Opinion No. 1996-13

Application Of Post-State Employment
Restrictions To Laid-Off CHFA Employee

The petitioner was employed until April, 1996 as Vice President for Housing Development and Mortgage Finance of the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA).  The petitioner’s employment having been terminated as the result of agency restructuring, he now asks how the post-state employment restrictions of the Code of Ethics for Public Officials, Connecticut General Statutes, Chapter 10, Part I, apply to the involuntary termination of state service.  CHFA is a quasi-public agency within the meaning of Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-79(l), and the petitioner is a former state employee within the meaning of 1-79(m), 1-84a and 1-84b.  The petitioner is considering several options, including a request for his assistance in the development of housing initiatives which may require CHFA participation, and therefore is particularly interested in whether he is precluded, for one year after leaving state service, from contact with his former agency.

Even though the termination of the petitioner’s state service was involuntary, Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84b(b) will prohibit him, for one year after leaving state service, from representing anyone other than the State for compensation before CHFA, concerning any matter in which the State has a substantial interest.  State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 93-5, 54 Conn. L.J. No. 45, p. 2E (May 11, 1993).  To “represent” means to do any activity that reveals one’s identity, including contacting the agency either in person or by telephone or allowing one’s name to appear in a document submitted to the agency.  State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 91-24, 53 Conn. L.J. No. 16, p. 1C (October 15, 1991).  As a result, the petitioner may assist in the development of housing initiatives, or other post-state employment, only if he is able to avoid prohibited contact with CHFA.

Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84b(a) will prohibit the petitioner from ever representing anyone other than the State “concerning any particular matter (1) in which he participated personally and substantially while in state service and (2) in which the state has a substantial interest.”  Section 1-84a prohibits disclosure or use of confidential information, acquired in state service, for the financial gain of oneself or another person.  This, too, is a life-long prohibition.

Finally, Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84b(d) prohibits a former state employee “who participated substantially in the negotiation or award of a state contract obliging the state to pay an amount of fifty thousand dollars or more, or who supervised the negotiation or award of such a contract” from accepting employment with a party to the contract (other than the State) for a period of one year after resignation from his state position if his resignation occurs less than one year after the contract is signed.  The term “resignation,” as used in 1-84b(d), refers to all forms of separation from State service, including lay-off.  Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies Sec.1-81-38(e).  This restriction applies with equal force to grants and other state awards implemented by contract.  State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 90-27, 52 Conn. L.J. No. 10, p. 7D (September 4, 1990).

The State Ethics Commission has not previously considered whether, for purposes of 1-84b(d), the state’s payment of monies in the form of a loan should be treated differently from the state’s payments of monies for the purchase of goods or services, for example.  In both cases monies are disbursed, making them unavailable for other state purposes, and in both cases the state expects full value in return for its expenditures.  The Commission therefore concludes that a state loan is a state contractual “obligation to pay” within the meaning of 1-84b(d).  “To hold otherwise would vitiate 1-84b(d) by allowing those individuals most directly responsible for the transfer of state funds to a non-state entity to escape the proscription of the statute.”  State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 90-27, supra.

The petitioner’s inquiry raises the further issue of whether a CHFA loan is a “state contract” within the meaning of  Sec. 1-84b(d), given the fact that Conn. Gen. Stat. 8-244 specifically states that CHFA is not a department, institution or agency of the state.  The Commission finds that for purposes of the Code of Ethics for Public Officials, a CHFA loan is a “state” contract to the same extent that the petitioner is a “state” employee.  Any other construction would render meaningless the post-state employment provisions of the Code of Ethics as applied to employees of quasi-public agencies.

By order of the Commission,

David T. Nessef

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