Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 2001-20

Advisory Opinion No. 2001-20
Advisory Opinion No. 2001-20

Application Of The Code’s Conflict Of Interests Provisions To
A Member Of The Connecticut Siting Council

Philip T. Ashton, recently appointed by the Governor to be a public member of the Connecticut Siting Council, has asked the State Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion regarding the issue of whether he may have an interest in conflict with his official duties by virtue of his past association with the Northeast Utilities Service Company (NU) or the Yankee Energy System (Yankee).

Mr. Ashton has previously served as an officer of NU (from 1978-1989) and as the Chief Executive Officer of Yankee (from 1989-1995). After his retirement in 1995, he has had no employment relationship with either entity, except for a one day consulting assignment in 1996.

Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 16-50j(b), one of the five public members of the Siting Council may "…have affiliation, past or present, with any utility…." Given that Mr. Ashton’s past affiliation with the utility industry is specifically allowed by statute, it cannot create an impermissible conflict under The Code Of Ethics For Public Officials.

By virtue of his prior employment Mr. Ashton has certain pension rights. However, these rights entail no obligation on his part and cannot be forseeably affected by his actions as a member of the Siting Council. Therefore, again, no conflict exists which would restrict the performance of his official duties.

Finally, by letter of August 29, 2001, Mr. Ashton has detailed the finances of his immediate family (including his adult children). This disclosure makes clear that he has taken all necessary steps to avoid any potential or actual conflicts of interests, including divestiture of 1,509 shares of NU stock and directives to his investment account managers to avoid transactions involving NU securities and those of other companies subject to the jurisdiction of the Siting Council.

Mr. Ashton’s conduct in addressing the ethical aspects of his public service is exemplary. As a consequence, he may, consistent with the requirements of the Ethics Code, perform the full range of duties of a public member of the Siting Council.

By order of the Commission,

Rosemary Giuliano

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:03:54 AM