Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 2001-5

Advisory Opinion No. 2001-5
Advisory Opinion No. 2001-5

Application Of Code Of Ethics To Department Of Motor Vehicles
Employee Whose Wife Is Employed By Private Emissions Testing Firm

Steven Shonta, a Labor Relations Manager at the Department of Motor Vehicles ("DMV"), has asked how the Code of Ethics for Public Officials, Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-79 et seq., applies to an employee of the DMV’s Emissions Division whose wife is employed by Envirotest Systems, the private firm currently holding the state’s emissions contract. Specifically, the employee’s wife is employed by Envirotest as a District Manager, overseeing eight emissions stations for the State of Connecticut. The DMV employee is employed by the DMV as an inspector, and is interested in applying for other positions within the agency.

In part, the Code of Ethics prohibits a state employee from using his state position, however inadvertently, for financial gain for his spouse. The Code also prohibits a state employee from using confidential information gained in his state job for his spouse’s financial benefit. See Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(c). Under the facts that have been presented, it is reasonable to assume that the wife’s working relationship with Envirotest is at least in part dependent on her stations’ maintenance of a good record with the DMV. Therefore, her husband should not be assigned by the DMV to oversee emissions stations that his wife manages for Envirotest, and also should not be privy to any confidential information regarding inspections of the stations under his wife’s supervision.

The DMV employee has expressed an interest in two DMV positions. The first position is with the DMV Safety Unit, making unannounced inspections of the safety lanes maintained by Envirotest at the state testing sites. The employee has stated that, if he accepted the position, he would test all but the eight stations under his wife’s control. This appears to be an acceptable application of the ethics law to his situation.

The second position under consideration is with the DMV Quality Assurance Unit. The DMV employee requested that he be allowed to make unannounced audits at any of the emissions stations, including the stations managed by his wife, since, he states, the testing is computerized and is therefore not subjective and may not be altered. The DMV employee also states that because the inspection is a technical one, even if there is an adverse reading, his wife would not be involved in fixing the problem, since she oversees the stations’ operations and not the maintenance of the equipment. Although the fact that the testing is objective may make a conflict of interest less likely, as a DMV quality assurance inspector, this employee would have access to confidential information directly related to the stations which his wife oversees, and his wife would continue to have ultimate management responsibility for those stations. Therefore, under the Ethics Code, the DMV employee may perform inspections on every station except those managed by his wife, provided, of course, that he does not have to refrain from inspection of so many stations that he is unable to perform his DMV responsibilities properly.

By order of the Commission,

Rosemary Giuliano

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