Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1999-7

Advisory Opinion No. 1999-7
Advisory Opinion No. 1999-7

Member Of Board Of Trustees Seeking To Contract With University

A member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Connecticut is the owner of a consulting business. The Commission has been asked whether this business may enter into a contract with the University.

The member was appointed to the Board by the Governor and is, therefore, a public official subject to the Code of Ethics for Public Officials, Chapter 10, Part I, Connecticut General Statutes. Conn. Gen. Stat. -79(k). The consulting business is a business with which he is associated, for purposes of the Code. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-79(b).

A public official may not use his public position, however inadvertently, to obtain financial gain for a business with which he is associated. See, Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(c). The Commission has previously ruled, that in certain circumstances, a member of the Board of Trustees of the University of Connecticut may enter into a contract with the University. Advisory Opinion No. 85-1, 46 CLJ 42, p. 1D (April 16 , 1985). In Advisory Opinion 85-1, the Trustee did not participate in the vote on the approval of the contract. This Ruling was modified in a later Advisory Opinion. Advisory Opinion No. 96-2, 57 CLJ 35, p. 5C (February, 27, 1996). In that Opinion, the Commission ruled that a public official may not enter into a contract with one’s board when fellow board members must select, supervise, and critique the performance of such contract. The Commission reasoned that use of office, however inadvertent, was unavoidable. Id. It also ruled that the outside employment would impair independence of judgment as to official duties since the public official may be persuaded to, or unconsciously, take certain official actions in order to ingratiate himself with other public officials on the board; thereby ensuring the selection and continuation of his outside contract. Id.

Therefore, the Trustee’s outside business may enter into a contract with the University, unless the Board of Trustees is charged with awarding and supervising such a contract.

It should be noted that, unless the Trustee has authority or control over the subject matter of the contract, the open and public contract provisions set forth in Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(i) of the Code do not apply in this instance, since the requirements are waived as to uncompensated public officials. The Board may, however, voluntarily require that any such contracts only be awarded through an open and public bid process. Finally, if the Board were to vote on a matter which would create the opportunity and/or the funding for a potential contract, the Trustee should recuse himself from the matter in order to avoid a violation of Conn. Gen. Stat. S1-84(c).

By order of the Commission,

Stanley Burdick
Chairperson



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