Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 2001-22

Advisory Opinion No. 2001-22
Advisory Opinion No. 2001-22

Acceptance By University Professor Of Honorarium Associated
With Fulbright Scholarship

Professor Ross E. Koning, president of the union chapter at Eastern Connecticut State University ("University"), has asked whether a professor who has been invited to give two weeks of lectures abroad under a Fullbright Award may accept the $200 per day honorarium associated with the award while also receiving his full state salary. The lectures are to take place during the University’s fall semester. According to Professor Koning, the recipient won the award because of his expertise and not because of his position with the University. The lectures are to be given to graduate students and professors abroad, and the University does not offer a graduate program. Again according to Professor Koning, the recipient professor has made alternative arrangements at the University so that he can continue to provide all of the services which have been assigned to him as a University faculty member.

University Executive Vice President Michael Pernal indicates that under University policy, the professor may use up to three days of personal leave with pay, and could keep both the honoraria and his state salary for those days. Under the union collective bargaining agreement, the University could also grant the professor five days of professional leave at full salary, but he would have to turn over the honoraria for those five days. The University would then allow the professor to take the remaining two days as leave without state pay, for which he could keep the Fullbright stipend. Mr. Pernal states that this approach is proper since a faculty member on leave "cannot be regarded as able to complete his …specific assigned responsibilities … of teaching, committee work, and student office hours if he is out of state for the entire duration of such a lengthy activity." Mr. Pernal also states that with respect to a faculty member on paid professional leave, the work performed during that time period is considered part of his assigned duties.

While the Code of Ethics for Public Officials, Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-79 et seq., prohibits the acceptance of a fee or honorarium for an appearance or speech made in a state employee’s official capacity, it does not preclude a state employee from accepting an honorarium for such an appearance when it is the employee’s personal expertise rather than his or her state position which is the motivating factor behind the offer of the honorarium. See Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(k), Advisory Opinion No. 89-19, 51 Conn. Law J. No. 7, p. 2C (8/15/89) (Assistant Attorney General in charge of Antitrust Unit could not accept honorarium offered by New York Times for op-ed piece when one of the reasons the piece was published was his state position.) The State Ethics Commission has previously held that a state official who is asked to participate in an event as a result of his personal expertise may accept an honorarium provided that the official does not attend the event on state time. See Docket No. 98-10, In the Matter of Andrew DeRocco.

Applying these rules to the facts that have been provided, it certainly does not appear that the professor used his state position to obtain the Fullbright Award. Also, he has indicated that the lectures were prepared during the summer. Therefore, if the lectures were to be given on his own time, and not on state time, he would be entitled to keep the honorarium. Professor Koning has stated that the recipient professor rearranged his schedule so that he could fulfill all of his responsibilities under his teaching contract. The Code of Ethics prohibits use of one’s state position for personal financial gain, and also prohibits acceptance of outside employment that impairs one’s independence of judgment with regard to state duties. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(b) and (c). The professor’s state duties and the interests of the University’s students must come first. In order for the professor to avoid a problem under these sections, any proposed schedule adjustment should be reviewed and approved by his superior at the University.

The Commission wishes to make it clear that this ruling is based on the unique factual situation presented. In particular, this professor was awarded a prestigious honorarium from a well-established scholarship program requiring a short-term, one-time absence. The award was offered, not in any way because of his state position, but rather because of his personal expertise. It has been stated that he did all the preparation work on his own time, and will not miss any of his state duties. Therefore, the professor may retain the honorarium if the criteria outlined above are met.

The issues of whether the lectures are being given on state or personal time, and whether the professor has adequately arranged to fulfill all of his obligations under his University contract, are personnel matters not within the jurisdiction of the State Ethics Commission. If it is determined that the trip is occurring on state time, then under the Ethics Code, the professor could accept none of the honoraria but should receive his full salary and may direct the Fullbright program to donate the honorarium to the University or to any bona fide charity of his choosing. He may not take the tax benefit of any such donation.

By order of the Commission,

Rosemary Giuliano

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