Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1997-25

Advisory Opinion No. 1997-25
Advisory Opinion No. 1997-25

Application Of June Special Session Public Act No. 97-6 To Benefits
Provided By An Employer Of A Public Official Or State Employee

Section 1 of June 18 Special Session Public Act No. 97-6 created a new exception to the definition of a gift which excludes "anything of value provided by an employer of (a) a public official, (b) a state employee, or (c) a spouse of a public official or state employee, to such official, employee or spouse, provided such benefits are customarily and ordinarily provided to others in similar circumstances". See Section 1 of the Act, amending the definition of a gift contained in Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-79(e). State Ethics Commission Principal Attorney, Brenda Bergeron has asked whether the State of Connecticut is an employer for purposes of this definition.

The Code of Ethics for Public Officials, Chapter 10, Part I, Connecticut General Statutes contains a ban on gifts from certain restricted donors. See Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(j) and 1-84(m). The gift definition is not used in any other provision of the Code (except in the analogous anti-bribery provisions contained in Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(f) and 1-84(g)) . The purpose of this gift ban is to reduce both actual and apparent outside influences on state servants. The additional gift exception provided for in the Public Act for gifts from an employer, therefore, applies only to those restricted donors defined in the Code, which employ the public official, state employee or spouse of such public official or state employee. This interpretation is consistent with the legislative debate on the Public Act during which Senator Gary LeBeau, Chairperson of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, explained that the rationale for the exception was to allow "reasonable and regular and customary types of things that people do in the real world" and used his spouse’s employer as the example. See Senate Debate on Bill No. 8005, Monday June 23, 1997 at p.___.

In contrast, expenditures made by a state agency for the benefit of state servants, including gifts, are governed by rules established by the Department of Administrative Services and the Auditors of Public Accounts. Improper receipt of such expenditures by a state servant would not be deemed a violation of the gift provisions of the Code but instead may be deemed a use of one’s state office or position for personal financial gain, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(c).

By order of the Commission

Maurice FitzMaurice

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