Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1997-27

Advisory Opinion No. 1997-27
Advisory Opinion No. 1997-27

Application Of The Code Of Ethics To The Practice Of Law Before
State Agencies By The House Minority Leader

The Honorable Robert M. Ward, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, has asked whether, consistent with the requirements of The Code Of Ethics For Public Officials, he may, for compensation, represent a Connecticut municipality before arbitration panels of the State Board of Mediation and Arbitration and before the State Board of Labor Relations.

Pursuant to the requirements of the Code, no public official or state employee, including a member of the General Assembly, may represent another for compensation before thirteen state agencies. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(d). Neither the Board of Mediation and Arbitration nor the Board of Labor Relations is included in the 1-84(d) list.

The Code, however, also sets forth general rules restricting outside employment which would impair independence of judgment as to official duties or which would be deemed an improper use of office for personal financial gain. See, Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(b) and (c) Although the State Ethics Commission historically has been reluctant to restrict the outside employment of the part-time members of Connecticut’s General Assembly, it has, for the past decade, consistently ruled that it would be inappropriate, under 1-84(b) and (c) of the Code, for the Chairperson of a legislative committee to represent clients before those state agencies over which his or her committee has cognizance. See, e.g., Advisory Opinion Nos. 97-13, 49 CLJ 20, p. 1C (11/17/87); 88-9, 49 CLJ 48, p. 5D (5/31/88); and 89-7, 50 CLJ 35, p. 8C (2/28/89). In essence, while 1-84(d) prohibits virtually all state servants from compensated representation before the enumerated agencies, the Commission has utilized 1-84(b) and (c) to prohibit certain senior officials from such representation before certain additional state entities based on an inherent and unavoidable conflict engendered by those officials’ authority.

In Advisory Opinion No. 97-19, __ CLJ __, p. __ ( / / ), the Commission considered the question of whether, pursuant to 1-84(b) and (c) , the Speaker of the House and President Pro Tempore of the Senate should be prohibited from representing clients before all the State’s Executive and Quasi-Public Agencies. During the consideration of A.O. No. 97-19, it was noted that both the Speaker and President can wield substantial authority over the budgets and legislative programs of these agencies.

Nonetheless, the Commission declined to impose such sweeping restrictions on the legislative leaders.

In making this determination, the Commission concluded that if such a broad prohibition were to be applied, it would be better accomplished through explicit legislative action, rather than through case by case rulings of the State Ethics Commission. Consequently, consistent with the precedent established in A.O. No. 97-19, the House Minority Leader may represent clients for compensation before all Executive Branch and Quasi-Public agencies not specifically included in the 1-84(d) prohibited list.

By order of the Commission,

Maurice FitzMaurice

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