Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1998-20

Advisory Opinion No. 1998-20
Advisory Opinion No. 1998-20

Application Of Code Of Ethics To Public Official Who Accepts
Fee/Honorarium For Transfer to Expense Fund

The Code of Ethics for Public Officials, Conn. Gen. Stat. Chapter 10, Part I, 1-84(k), provides in part the following: "No public official or state employee shall accept a fee or honorarium for an article, appearance or speech, or for participation at an event, in his official capacity, provided a public official or state employee may receive payment or reimbursement for necessary expenses for any such activity in his official capacity." Section 1-81-26 of the State State Ethics Commission Regulations also provides, however, that "…it shall be permissible for the individual to direct or allow the payor to donate the fee or honorarium to any non-profit entity, provided the individual shall not receive any charitable tax deduction or other financial benefit for such act." Brenda M. Bergeron, State Ethics Commission Principal Attorney, has asked whether the foregoing provisions preclude the acceptance of a fee or honorarium, for speeches in one’s official capacity, for transfer to his department or agency to establish a fund from which expenses for departmental activities not otherwise provided for in the departmental budget could be paid.

Specifically, the fund in question would provide for the following types of expenditures outside the department’s regular budget and ordinarily paid for out-of-pocket by the individual: lunches and or dinners with consultants, board members, representatives from private colleges and other guests; flowers for a hospitalized board member; subscriptions; gasoline; and sundries, including cookies and snacks for project meetings.

It is clear that the fund in question pays for benefits not part of the official’s compensation package or otherwise reimbursed by the individual’s employing agency. It is also clear that the fees in this instance would not be directed away from the individual as contemplated by Regulation 1-81-26, but rather to the contrary would be directed back to the individual for his use pursuant to an account under his control. The language of 1-84(k) is clear and unambiguous, as are the limitations on redirecting any fee or honorarium set forth by regulation. Pursuant to these provisions, the use of any vehicle to receive fees or honoraria that is within the individual’s control, and which results in his financial benefit, is impermissible despite whatever laudatory purposes the expenditures may ultimately have.

By order of the Commission

Stanley Burdick

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:02:27 AM