Advisory Opinion No. 1998-4
Application Of The Code Of Ethics For Public Officials To
Of A State Computer In Furtherance Of Ones Outside Employment
Senator Gary D. LeBeau has asked the State Ethics Commission whether he may use his
legislative computer in the course of his instruction at East Hartford High School.
Specifically, Senator LeBeau states that "
the computer would be useful in
attendance, instruction and grading purposes."
In making his request for an advisory opinion, Senator LeBeau further states that
"I believe that there is a prohibition against the use of state property for
non-state purposes. However, in some cases, this may not be seeing the forest because we
only are seeing the trees." In support of this position, he notes that
Connecticuts public schools are instruments of the state created to provide an equal
education to all students; and that by using his computer he enhances this public purpose.
On a more practical note, he adds that he is not required, in his teaching job, to
purchase a computer and it would not be feasible to do so.
Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 1-84(c), no public
official may use his public office or position to obtain personal financial gain. The
State Ethics Commission has consistently interpreted this provision to prohibit a state official
from using state goods or services, including computer equipment, in furtherance of his or
her outside employment. See, e.g., State Ethics Commission Docket No. 79-12.
(Legislator sanctioned for use of State property to promote his private business.) This
interpretation implements the States uniform policy (consistently articulated by the
various administrative agencies exercising jurisdiction over state goods and services)
barring use of state property for non-state purposes.
Upon initial review, Senator LeBeaus request that the Commission deviate from
state policy, in this instance, may appear reasonable. Such a deviation would, however,
open a veritable pandoras box of potential problems. Where would the Commission
draw the line, if it accepted Senator LeBeaus public instrumentality rationale
(public schools, libraries, all municipal agencies, all federal offices in Connecticut,
all organizations receiving state funding)? And where would that line be drawn if we,
alternatively, focused on public purpose (all charities, all non-profit organizations)?
Either analysis would replace § 1-84(c)s bright
line prohibition with a murky,case by case application of the Ethics Codes use of
office provision. In any event, regardless of the relative merits of Senator
LeBeaus, obviously earnest, arguments, such a proposed application is legally
untenable; since it would contravene state policy and overturn two decades of Commission
precedent. Therefore, the Commission hereby reaffirms that §
1-84(c) is violated whenever a state servant utilizes state goods or services incident to
his or her private employment, no matter how salutary the purpose of that employment.
By order of the Commission,