Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1999-22

Advisory Opinion No. 1999-22
Advisory Opinion No. 1999-22

Publication Related To A State Employee’s Official Duties

The Head Coach of the University of Connecticut Men’s Basketball Team, Jim Calhoun, has asked whether, under the Code of Ethics for Public Officials, he may privately publish a book about the Team’s national championship season. Furthermore, he has asked whether he may use UCONN’s name in the title.

Under the Code of Ethics for Public Officials, Connecticut General Statutes, Chapter 10, Part I, a public official or state employee may not accept outside employment which will impair independence of judgment as to state duties or require or induce disclosure of confidential information acquired in state service. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(b). Additionally, no one subject to the Code may use his official position or confidential state information for personal financial benefit. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(c). As a result, the Commission has previously ruled that a state employee may not publish an outside treatise for profit if the employee is expected to provide the same information to the same class of persons in his or her state position. Furthermore, a state employee may not be paid privately to do what he or she is essentially already required to do as part of his or her state job. State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 91-11, 52 Conn. L.J. No. 46, p. 6C (May 14, 1991).

However, a state employee may utilize expertise, including experience acquired in state service, for financial gain as long as one’s actions do not breach 1-84(b), 1-84(c), or any other provision of the Code. See , e.g., State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion 89-14, 50 Conn. L.J. No. 52, p. 7C (June 27, 1989); State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 91-11, supra. In this matter, Coach Calhoun is not expected as part of his state duties to provide the information outlined in the book. In addition, he does not have any official state role or interaction with the publishing company. Therefore, the outside employment will not impair his judgment as to his official state duties and is permissible under 1-84(b). Coach Calhoun, however, pursuant to both Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(b) and 1-84(c), may not use confidential information acquired by him in the course of and by reason of his official duties for use in his book.

It should be noted that the Commission has previously ruled that a state employee could not be paid for writing an article when the publisher selected him because of his official position. See, State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 89-19, 51 Conn. L.J. No. 7, p. 2C (August 15, 1989). In this case, the publishing company is willing to promote the sale of this book because of Coach Calhoun’s accomplishments and his celebrity status. In a prior advisory opinion regarding the application of the gift limits under the Code, the Commission recognized that Coach Calhoun is frequently invited to participate in events because of his celebrity status. State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 97-14, 59 Conn. L.J. No. 4D (July 1, 1997). The Commission ruled that it is not germane that this celebrity status may have been derived through his state accomplishments and determined that certain aspects of the gift rules did not apply. Id. Similarly, it is not an impermissible use of office, under 1-84(c), for a state employee with celebrity status to receive compensation for writing a book describing his own accomplishments. If Coach Calhoun were to leave the University, the publisher would still want to publish the book. Therefore, it follows that his state position in no way lends additional credibility to the publication. Rather, it is Coach Calhoun’s celebrity which makes this book marketable. (Compare Advisory Opinion No. 89-19, Supra, in which the publisher stated that the individual’s state position was important to add credibility to the article).

Finally, the use of the word "UCONN" in the title of the book is also permissible. It is clear that UCONN is not endorsing the book or otherwise involved in its publication. Since it is permissible for Coach Calhoun to receive compensation for writing the book about the championship season, it would be unreasonable to ban the use of the word "UCONN".

By order of the Commission,

Stanley Burdick,
Chairperson



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