Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 2001-28

Advisory Opinion No. 2001-28
Advisory Opinion No. 2001-28

Application Of The Code’s Outside Employment Provisions To A Member
Of The Legislative Regulations Review Committee

Mary Anne O’Neill, Chief Counsel for the House Republicans, has asked the State Ethics Commission for an opinion regarding the following matter. A legislator who serves on the Legislative Regulations Review Committee (LRRC) and on an LRRC subcommittee which reviews the regulations of a particular agency wishes to consult for clients and vendors of that agency. Attorney O’Neill wishes to know whether this outside consulting is permissible under the provisions of The Code Of Ethics For Public Officials.

In posing this question, Attorney O’Neill notes that the legislator is neither a chairperson nor ranking member of the LRRC, nor, as a member of the subcommittee, does the legislator have the authority to originate regulations or reject regulations submitted by the agency. She adds that, while the legislator does not have any greater control over the LRRC’s decisions regarding the agency’s regulations than other committee members, he may have somewhat superior knowledge of the agency’s procedures by virtue of his subcommittee service.

The Code Of Ethics contains general provisions that regulate outside employment which would impair independence of judgement as to official duties, induce disclosure of confidential information or engender use of one’s office for personal financial gain. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(b) and (c). The Commission, however, has historically been reticent to utilize these provisions to restrict the outside employment of the part-time members of Connecticut’s General Assembly. Specifically, only when a legislator wields essentially unique and direct authority over a particular state agency or department has the Commission prohibited his or her representation of clients before that entity. See, e.g., State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion Nos. 88-9, 4 CLJ 48, p. 5D (5/31/88) and 89-7, 50 CLJ 35, p. 8C (2/28/89): wherein the Commission ruled that the House Chairperson of the Labor and Public Employees Committee should not represent clients before agencies under the jurisdiction of the Committee.

Applying this line of precedent to the question posed, the LRRC and subcommittee member will not be prohibited, under 1-84(b) and (c), from engaging in outside representation before the regulated agency.

The legislator is reminded, however, that pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(d) such representation is barred before the thirteen agencies enumerated in that subsection.

Additionally, pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-86(c) no member of the General Assembly may be a lobbyist. To adhere to this restriction in the context of representation before an executive agency, the legislator must limit his work to those activities exempted from the definition of administrative lobbying by the Lobbyist Code and the Commission’s Regulations. See, Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-91(k) and Regulations of Conn. State Agencies 1-92-42a: exempt from the definition of lobbying are representation in contested cases, work as a salesperson and certain aspects of the practice of law. However, under no circumstances may the legislator, in his representation of a private client, deviate from the agency’s established procedures (e.g., by contacting the Commissioner to intervene in a contested case or by contacting the Governor’s Office to seek to influence a contract award). See, 1-92-42a at (b) and State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 97-5, 58 CLJ 40, p. 9D (4/1/97): such actions outside of established procedures constitute administrative lobbying.

By order of the Commission

Rosemary Giuliano

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