Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 2002-23

Advisory Opinion No. 2002-23
Advisory Opinion No. 2002-23

Application Of The Code To Acceptance Of Outside Employment
Involving One’s Field Of State Authority

Charles Steig, the Child Services Consultant in the Community Services Unit of the Bridgeport Regional Office of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), has asked the Commission whether he may, consistent with the requirements of The Code Of Ethics For Public Officials, retain his outside employment with the Child Guidance Center of Mid Fairfield County (the Center).

In his state position Mr. Steig is required, generally, to manage contracts that DCF has negotiated with local service providers. In carrying out these duties, he assists in the development of RFPs, reviews contract performance, reviews and analyzes fiscal and programmatic reports from service providers and makes recommendations regarding future contracts.

In order to avoid a conflict of interests, since accepting part-time employment with the Center in June, 2000 Mr. Steig has not worked, in his public or private capacity, worked on any aspect of the Center’s DCF contracts. However, according to Mr. Steig’s Program Director at DCF, Kathleen Bahe, DCF’s contracts with other Child Guidance Centers are so similar that the Department believes it cannot now have Mr. Steig work on any aspect of any such contract. This belief on DCF’s part has created situations where work normally performed by Mr. Steig’s unit must be handled by others outside the unit in order to avoid a conflict of interest for Mr. Steig. Moreover, Ms. Bahe indicates that Mr. Steig has access to significant amounts of confidential information which could be of assistance to his private employer, including, among others, information about the contracts which DCF will be auditing, and the programs that will be reduced due to the State’s budget constraints.

With regard to Mr. Steig’s employment at the Center, he serves as the Business Manager and is charged with managing the Center’s contracts and grants, with the exception, purportedly, of those awarded by DCF (which, at present, total several million dollars). AFinally, as Business Manager, however, Mr. Steig also exercises a degree ofto fiscal authority over the Center that calls into question his ability to avoid managing the Center’s DCF contracts. Moreover, documents produced by DCF that were submitted by the Center over a period of 1 years call into question whether or not Mr. Steig’s position at the Center is funded in part with DCF funds.

Under The Code Of Ethics For Public Officials, a state employee may not accept outside employment which impairs his independence of judgment with regard to state duties or induces the disclosure of confidential information. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(b). Additionally, the Code also prohibits the employee from using his state position, however inadvertently, for financial gain. Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(c).

Generally, 1-84(b) and (c) are violated when a state employee accepts outside employment with an entity which can benefit from his official actions. State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 97-11, 58 CLJ. 48, p. 5D (5/27/97). Pursuant to these Code provisions, "the Commission has consistently held that conflicts of interest, both real and apparent, are inevitable and unavoidable when a state servant directly responsible for regulating a private field of endeavor seeks to be employed in that same field." State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 93-21, 55 CLJ 29, p. 3D (1/18/94); and see also, Regulations of Conn. State Agencies 1-81-17. The Commission has also held that it would constitute an improper use of office for financial gain for a state employee whose responsibilities include determinations regarding the distribution of federal funds or grants to accept outside employment with an entity that might seek those monies. State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 99-1, 60 CLJ 32, p. 7C (2/9/99).

In this instance, despite Mr. Steig’s efforts and best intentions, his outside employment, inevitably and unquestionably, entails impairment of independence of judgment and inappropriate use of official position. First, Mr. Steig’s access to confidential or otherwise "inside" information – not available to the general public – regarding DCF’s policies and preferences regarding the operations of service providers can only inure, inappropriately, to his outside employer as he performs his duties as that entity’s Business Manager. State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 88-17, 50 Conn. L.J. No. 19, p. 3D (11/8/88)("Application Of The Code's Confidential Information Provisions To A Clerical Employee"). Second, his official review and evaluation of other service providers’ performance will, in all likelihood, be improperly influenced by his employment with the Center. For example, it would be difficult, at best, for Mr. Steig to criticize a practice of another service provider if he knew his Center engaged in the same, or similar, practice.

The validity of these practical impediments to Mr. Steig’s simultaneous public and private employment is, perhaps, best demonstrated by DCF’s position that he cannot now work on any Department contract with a Child Guidance Center that is similar to the ones his Center has with DCF. As the State Ethics Commission has consistently held, one’s state employment must take precedence over outside financial endeavors. When, as here, that outside work impermissibly interferes with the performance of one’s public duties, the state employee must relinquish either his public or private employment.

By order of the Commission,

Rosemary Giuliano

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