Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 2002-4

Advisory Opinion No. 2002-4
Advisory Opinion No. 2002-4

Application Of The Code To The Executive Director Of The Siting Council

Mortimer Gelston, the Chairman of the Connecticut Siting Council (the Council) has asked the State Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion regarding the potential application of The Code Of Ethics For Public Officials to the Council’s new Executive Director.

The Director, S. Derek Phelps, was previously employed (for a period of approximately two and one half years) by Tech/Aid, a contractor of Northeast Utilities (NU). Specifically, Mr. Phelps’ work with NU involved utilizing a portion of the State’s energy conservation fund to install energy efficient measures in public buildings. In this regard, he communicated with municipal officials concerning the benefits of the program, calculated the cost effectiveness of proposed projects and employed contractors to implement the measures. In his previous capacity, Mr. Phelps had no interaction with the transmission and distribution operations of NU or with any activities related to generation.

The Council, established pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. 16-50j, has site regulation authority regarding electric generating facilities, power producers, fuel and electric transmission lines, television towers, cellular telephone towers, telecommunications towers, hazardous waste management facilities, low-level radioactive waste management facilities and ash residue management facilities. See, Conn. Gen. Stat. Chapters 277a, 445, 446a, 446d, and 446e.

Given Mr. Phelps previous affiliation with NU, Chairman Gelston wishes to know whether the new Executive Director should recuse himself from matters involving the Company or its subsidiaries or otherwise take specific steps to avoid actual or apparent conflicts of interests.

Although The Code Of Ethics For Public Officials sets forth extensive post-state employment restrictions (See, Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84a and 1-84b) it does not contain parallel pre-state employment rules. As a consequence, the only limitations on Mr. Phelps’ official actions as Executive Director of the Council regarding NU would emanate from continuing financial ties; e.g., NU stock ownership or pension rights. In essence, only if, by taking an action in his state position, Mr. Phelps could forseeably affect such personal financial interests of himself or certain enumerated relatives would he be required to recuse himself from the matter in question. See, Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-85 and 1-86.

By order of the Commission,

Rosemary Giuliano,

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