Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1998-31

Advisory Opinion No. 1998-31
Advisory Opinion No. 1998-31

Department of Correction Employee May Not Accept Outside
Employment With Bail Bondsman

David M. Cusano, a Correction Officer with the State Department of Correction ("DOC"), has asked whether, under the Code of Ethics for Public Officials, Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-79 et seq., he may accept outside employment with an established bail bondsman while continuing to work for the state. A bail bondsman furnishes bail for an arrested person in a criminal case and is licensed by the state Department of Public Safety.

The State Ethics Commission has previously ruled on two occasions that certain state employees may not accept outside employment as a bail bondsman or as a bounty hunter, a related professional who attempts to retrieve individuals who have failed to appear in court. In Advisory Opinion No. 86-12, the Commission held that a family relations counselor serving in a family relations unit of a judicial geographic area should not engage in the business of writing bonds in Connecticut, since to rule otherwise would allow him to accept outside employment that impairs his independence of judgment and potentially induces him to disclose confidential information gained in the course of his state duties for personal financial gain, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(b). See Advisory Opinion No. 86-12, 48 Conn. Law J. 25, p.2C (12/16/86). More recently, in Declaratory Ruling No. 92-A, the Commission held that it would be an inappropriate use of state position, in violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(c), for Department of Correction employees involved in the incarceration and rehabilitation functions of the Department to accept outside employment with bail bondsmen as bounty hunters. Again, the Commission held that accepting employment as a bounty hunter would "impermissibly impair the independence of judgment of a Department of Correction employee, in violation of 1-84(b)."

Turning to the case at hand, Mr. Cusano is a Correction Officer, involved directly with inmates on a daily basis. According to the Human Resources Division of DOC, a Correction Officer has access to confidential information. Although it is ethically sensitive of Mr. Cusano to offer to deny himself access to such material, the department does not have a mechanism to enforce such a voluntary ban, and in any event, Mr. Cusano may need the information in order to perform his job properly. Mr. Cusano has also offered to write bail only in courthouses or police stations and not at any DOC facility, but (again according to DOC) the fact remains that guards and inmates are frequently reassigned within the system in order to maintain the safety of the facilities, and it is not only possible but likely that an individual for whom Mr. Cusano has written bail may come under his official jurisdiction. Therefore, the restrictions of the Code of Ethics prohibit Mr. Cusano’s proposed outside employment.

By order of the Commission,

Stanley Burdick,

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