Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1999-17

Advisory Opinion No. 1999-17
Advisory Opinion No. 1999-17

Application Of Gift Restrictions To Employees Of Private Agencies
Under Contract With Department Of Mental Retardation

John Houchin, Director of the Eastern Region of the Department of Mental Retardation ("DMR"), has asked how the gift restrictions of the Code of Ethics for Public Officials, Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-79 et seq., apply to employees of private agencies under contract with DMR.

The Code of Ethics prohibits a state employee from using his or her state position for financial gain. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(c). The Code also contains strict limits on the gifts which a state employee may take from a registered lobbyist, someone doing business with, or attempting to do business with, the employee’s agency or engaged in activities directly regulated by the agency. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(j) and (m). A state employee may not accept a tangible gift worth more than $10, capped at $50 from any one such source in a year, and may only accept up to $50 worth of meals from such a source annually. Id. Furthermore the State Ethics Commission has recently held, under 1-84(c), that a state employee who is offered a benefit from an unregulated source as the result of his or her official position may accept up to $100 in gifts from that source in a year. See, Advisory Opinion No. 98-9, 59 Conn. L. J. 45, p. 5D (5/5/98).

The section of the Code which applies to independent contractors and consultants hired by the state contains language similar to the "use of office" language of 1-84(c). Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-86e(a)(1) prohibits such a contractor or consultant from using the authority provided under the contract to obtain financial gain for the person, an employee of the person, or a member of the immediate family of any such person or employee. That section of the Code does not contain the more restrictive language of 1-84(j) or (m). Therefore, an employee of a private agency under contract with DMR may accept benefits totaling up to $100 annually from, for example, a client or a client’s relative. Any larger benefit would violate 1-86e(a)(1). Compare, for example, Advisory Opinion No. 98-30, 60 Conn. L. J. 27, p. 7E (1/5/99) (DMR employee may not accept a bequest from a DMR client where the will was drawn up while the client was subject to the influence, control and/or authority of the DMR employee.) Also, of course, DMR may establish stricter gift rules as part of its contracting process.

By order of the Commission,

Stanley Burdick,

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:02:57 AM