Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 2002-1

Advisory Opinion No. 2002-1
Advisory Opinion No. 2002-1

Application Of The Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(m)(2) Gift Ban To The
Department Of Revenue Services

Pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(m), "No public official or state employee shall knowingly accept…any gift…from any person the official or employee knows or has reason to know: (1) is doing business with or seeking to do business with the department or agency in which the official or employee is employed or (2) is engaged in activities which are directly regulated by such department or agency."

The State Ethics Commission has been asked how 1-84(m)(2) applies to officials and employees of departments such as the Department of Revenue Services (DRS) which, in effect, regulates virtually all Connecticut citizens through its administration and enforcement of the State’s taxation statutes and regulations.

A fundamental tenet of statutory construction is that no word of a statute is to be viewed as extraneous or unimportant. Applying this rule to 1-84(m)(2), the Commission finds that the term "directly" was included in the statutory provision to modify and hence limit the scope and application of the words "regulated by." Based on this construction, the Commission further finds that in the case of departments and agencies with regulatory authority over all or substantially all of Connecticut’s populace "directly regulated by" should be limited to those individuals and entities over which the department or agency is exercising actual regulatory authority.

Applying this general precept to the DRS, 1-84(m)(2) will be interpreted to prohibit gifts from persons selected for or currently being audited by the Department and from persons otherwise involved in contested matters with the Department. C.f., State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 94-14, 56 Conn. L.J. No. 4, p. 3C (July 26, 1994): wherein the Commission held that despite the DRS’ broad authority a departmental employee could accept unrelated, outside employment with any person not selected for or currently being audited by the Agency.

While it is certainly possible to interpret the 1-84(m)(2) restriction more broadly, such an interpretation would be unnecessarily draconian in prohibiting gifts, wholly unrelated to any state purpose or function, from friends and colleagues to DRS personnel.

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:04:20 AM