Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1999-25

Advisory Opinion No. 1999-25
Advisory Opinion No. 1999-25

Application Of Outside Employment Restrictions To Special Deputy Sheriffs

Patricia Lempicki, Administrative Director of the Office of the County Sheriffs, has asked whether the Code of Ethics for Public Officials, Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-79 et seq., places any restrictions on the acceptance by special deputy sheriffs of certain types of outside employment. The types of outside employment raised by Ms. Lempicki include work as a bounty hunter, bouncer or bartender, private investigator or private security officer. Other possible outside work involves carrying a badge, such as municipal police officer, game warden, firefighter, Department of Environmental Protection ("DEP") officer or constable. Ms. Lempicki has also asked whether, under the Code of Ethics, a special deputy sheriff may hold a liquor license or be a permittee for a package store or bar.

In a recent advisory opinion, the State Ethics Commission ruled that special deputy sheriffs are state employees as that term is used in the Code of Ethics. See, Advisory Opinion No. 99-21, 61 Conn. L. J. No.13, p.5E (9/28/99), "Application of the Code of Ethics for Public Officials to Special Deputy Sheriffs." Therefore, the outside employment rules that apply to state employees apply to special deputy sheriffs as well. In general, the Code of Ethics prohibits a state employee from accepting outside employment which impairs his independence of judgment with regard to his state duties, or which induces or requires him to disclose confidential information. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(b). The Code also prohibits a state employee from using his state office or position, however inadvertently, for personal financial gain. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(c).

Turning to Ms. Lempicki’s questions, the types of outside employment she has described may be divided into two categories; those that involve use of a badge for potential private gain, and those which either do not involve use of a badge at all or involve use of a badge for the benefit of the public. Included in the first category is work as a bounty hunter or private investigator. The Commission has previously ruled that acceptance of outside employment as a bounty hunter by a deputy sheriff would violate both Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(b) and 1-84(c). See, Declaratory Ruling No. 92-A, "Application of Code of Ethics to Department of Correction Employees and Deputy Sheriffs Acting as Bounty Hunters." The Commission held that a bounty hunter’s goals and a deputy sheriff’s goals are not necessarily identical and that the very powers which would make a deputy sheriff a successful bounty hunter (i.e., broad authority to apprehend, arrest and detain individuals, special protections afforded to a peace officer, and access to the court system as a participant) are powers which may not be exercised in furtherance of outside financial gain. See also, Advisory Opinion No. 98-31, 60 Conn. L. J. No. 27, p. 8E (1/5/99), "Department of Correction Employee May Not Accept Outside Employment With Bail Bondsman."

Since a special deputy sheriff may exercise the same police powers as a deputy sheriff, analogous restrictions on outside employment must apply. Conn. Gen. Stat. 54-1f. Therefore, a special deputy sheriff may not accept private work as a bounty hunter. The same reasoning applies in the case of outside employment as a private investigator, since any use of the police powers granted to a special deputy sheriff for private investigation would be inappropriate.

The rationale under the Code of Ethics for limiting the private employment of special deputy sheriffs as bounty hunters or private investigators does not extend to the acceptance of outside employment in another public position or office. The peace-keeping duties of a special deputy sheriff are consistent with the public service duties of a municipal police officer, constable, DEP officer, game warden or firefighter.

Similarly, the restrictions of the Code of Ethics do not prohibit outside employment that is neither helped nor hindered by the broad police powers. Therefore, under the Code of Ethics, a special deputy sheriff may accept outside employment as a bartender, bouncer or private security guard.

Finally, Ms. Lempicki has asked whether special deputy sheriffs may serve as permittees or license holders for bars or package stores. The Legislature has already determined that it is a conflict of interest for High Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs to hold such permits, by directing the Department of Consumer Protection to refuse permits to these individuals. Conn. Gen. Stat. 30-45. Since special deputy sheriffs can exercise the same police powers as the others under certain circumstances, it is logical to extend this prohibition to them.

Of course, nothing in this Ruling prevents a High Sheriff from setting his or her own additional rules regarding outside employment of special deputy sheriffs.

By order of the Commission,

Stanley Burdick,

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