Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1996-16

Advisory Opinion No. 1996-16
Advisory Opinion No. 1996-16

State Employee Who Is Officer Of Professional Association
Which Is Regulated By Her Agency

The Connecticut Pharmaceutical Association Inc. (CPA) is a professional association of licensed pharmacists. Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-94, the CPA is a registered lobbyist. As a registrant, one of CPA’s objectives is to advocate changes to the law and regulations regarding the practice of pharmacy.

The CPA’s President-Elect is employed as the administrator for the Commission of Pharmacy (The Commission) which is part of the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP). This individual is a state employee for purposes of the Code of Ethics for Public Officials. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-79(m). Her official state duties include responsibility for supervising the daily operations of the Commission, handling inquiries regarding licensure and regulations from pharmacists, pharmacies and distributors of patent medicines, and acting as the liaison between the Commission and DCP. She also participates on a committee which is revising applicable regulations and developing new regulations to comply with the recently enacted Pharmacy Practice Act.

The CPA has asked whether expense reimbursements and payment or waiver of fees in favor of the President-Elect (and, thereafter, as President) are reportable under Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-96. Furthermore, it has asked whether such payments are proper under Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-97(a) and 1-84(j).

Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-96 requires registered lobbyists to file periodic financial reports disclosing expenditures for lobbying and in furtherance of lobbying. These reports must also include an itemization of each expenditure of ten dollars or more for the benefit of a public official or member of the staff of such official. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-96(b) and 1-96(e). Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-97(a) prohibits a registrant from giving, and Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(j) prohibits a state employee from accepting, a gift or gifts that amount to fifty dollars or more in value in the aggregate in any calendar year. A gift means anything of value, which is directly and personally received, unless consideration of equal or greater value is given in return. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-91(g), 1-79(g).

The State Ethics Commission has previously ruled that reimbursement or payment of expenses for an officer/state employee while on association business is not considered a gift. State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 83-3, 44 Conn. L.J. No. 35, p. 5B, March 1, 1983. The Commission concluded that any services rendered by the individual in his role as officer for the association would be deemed consideration of equal or greater value for any related costs incurred. Id. Therefore, any expense reimbursements and payment and waiver of fees is neither a gift, for purposes of Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-79(e) and 1-91(g), nor an expenditure for the benefit of that state employee, for purposes of Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-96(e). It follows, therefore, that the officer/state employee may accept, and the association may pay for, reasonable expenses incurred by the individual while on association business. Finally, for purposes of Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-96, such expense and fee payments which are routinely conferred on all officers (e.g., costs of attending annual convention and fees for continuing education) would be considered unrelated to lobbying and do not need to be reported on the CPA’s lobbyist financial reports.

In closing, it should be pointed out that the Code of Ethics for Public Officials prohibits a state employee from accepting outside employment which would impair independence of judgment with regard to official state duties. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(b). In this case, however, the outside activity is not considered to be employment, since no compensation or other financial gain is involved. See, Regulations of Conn. State Agencies 1-81-14. Except for this lack of financial benefit, the individual in question would be prohibited from accepting the President-Elect position with CPA, since she has official responsibility for certain activities (i.e., regulatory revision and development) regarding which she will also be functioning as an advocate for the CPA. The General Assembly, in recognizing the potential for conflicts where the State Ethics Commission does not have jurisdiction, has required each state agency to develop its own Agency Code of Ethics. See, Public Act No. 94-126; Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-83(a)(2). Therefore, although the State Ethics Commission does not have the authority to prohibit the outside activity in this matter, it recommends that the officer/state employee consult with the Commissioner of DCP to ensure that the potential for a conflict of interests is permissible under her own Agency’s rules.

By order of the Commission,

Maurice Fitzmaurice

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