Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 2000-4

Advisory Opinion No. 2000-4
Advisory Opinion No. 2000-4

Application Of The Ethics Code To The Sale Of Surplus
Computers To Judicial Branch Employees

The Director of Materials Management for the Judicial Branch, Cortez G. White, has asked the State Ethics Commission for guidance regarding the following issue. The Judicial Branch (Judicial) is in the process of replacing a large number of its computers. Consistent with established procedures, Judicial offered its now surplus current computers to Executive Branch agencies; however, no executive agency expressed interest in obtaining the equipment.

As a result, Judicial now has available in excess of fifty computers with a fair market value of $200-$300 per unit. Historically, Judicial has advertised the sale of excess equipment and sold the items in lots to the highest bidder. In this instance, however, Mr. White wishes to know whether a limited number of machines could be set aside for purchase at a fixed price, by Judicial employees, on a "lottery" basis. The fixed price would be determined in accordance with existing Judicial policies (i.e., by obtaining three quotes).

In his request for advice, Mr. White’s representative, Attorney Martin Libbin, accurately identifies the two relevant Code provisions: Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(c) (which prohibits use of office for financial gain); and Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(i) (which mandates an open and public contracting process when a state employee wishes to enter into a contract with the State valued at $100 or more). Attorney Libbin is also correct in his observation that the establishment at a fixed fair market value for the computers essentially eliminates any opportunity for improper financial gain.

The requirements of 1-84(i) are not, however, being met under the proposed procedure. To correct this deficiency, Judicial must make a prior public offer of the surplus equipment (e.g., through the newspapers or other general circulation media) and must allow all members of the public, not just judicial employees, equal access to the sale.

Finally, it should be noted that while adherence to 1-84(i) addresses the requirements of the Ethics Code, it is beyond this Commission’s jurisdiction to rule whether the resultant process complies with any other potentially relevant statutes or regulations.

By order of the Commission,

Stanley Burdick,

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:03:24 AM