Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1997-24

Advisory Opinion No. 1997-24
Advisory Opinion No. 1997-24

Promotion Of Soccer Camp Owned By The University Of Connecticut’s Soccer Coach

The Athletic Department of the University of Connecticut (UCONN) would like to increase attendance for the 1997 women’s soccer season. It has proposed that during each game, UCONN offer the chance for someone to win a free scholarship to attend a summer soccer camp owned by the UCONN Women’s Soccer Coach, Len Tsantiris. The promotion will be advertised (along with other game day promotions) in the newspapers as an incentive for fans to come to the games. Jeffrey Hathaway, Assistant Athletic Director, has asked whether this University promotion is permissible under the Code of Ethics for Public Officials, Chapter 10, Part I, Connecticut General Statutes.

Coach Tsantiris is an employee of UCONN and therefore, a state employee subject to the Code of Ethics. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-79(m). A state employee is prohibited from using his state position to obtain financial gain for himself or a business with which he is associated. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(c). The summer soccer camp is a business with which Coach Tsantiris is associated. See Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-79(b). The contemplated use of Coach Tsantiris’ soccer camp is derived solely because of his state position. UCONN has not sought the availability of other similar camps. Although the athletic department is sponsoring the promotion as a means to benefit its soccer program, it also will have the residual effect of generally promoting the camp. The advertisements and game announcements will, however inadvertently, generate a certain financial benefit for the camp, i.e. free publicity and consequent increased camp enrollment. Therefore, such an exclusive arrangement would be an impermissible use of Coach Tsantiris’ office in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(c).The Code, however, will allow the contemplated financial arrangement, if the University and the state employee comply with the requirements of Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(i). That subsection requires that any contract between the state and a state employee or a business with which he is associated, valued at $100 or more, other than a contract of employment as a state employee or pursuant to a court appointment, be awarded through an open and public process, including prior public offer and subsequent public disclosure of all proposals considered. The open and public process serves as a safeguard to prevent any possible misuse of public position or office. The free soccer scholarships to attend the summer camp are valued at over four hundred dollars. This agreement to provide the scholarships for the University promotion is a contract, for purposes of the Code, between the camp and the University in excess of $100. Therefore, in order to consider the arrangement with the Coach, the University must first offer the idea of the promotion to the public so that other soccer camps have the same opportunity to participate. Coach Tsantiris’ camp may then be selected, if the University determines it has provided the best offer for the promotional program.

By order of the Commission,

Maurice FitzMaurice

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:02:03 AM