Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 2003-14

Advisory Opinion No. 2003-14
Advisory Opinion No. 2003-14

Application Of The Code To Veterans’ Performance Incentive
Awards Program

George M. Wentworth, Director of Program Policy in the Department of Labor, has asked the State Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion regarding the Veterans’ Performance Incentive Awards Program (the Awards Program).  The Awards Program was established by federal law.  See, Title 38, USCJ 4112, as amended by P.L. 107-288.  The federal enactment establishes a requirement for “performance incentive awards for quality employment training and placement services” to be administered by the states.  Id.  The federal act further mandates that one percent of a state’s total grant allocation shall be used for the Awards Program, but allows for nonmonetary awards where a state’s laws prohibit such financial compensation.  Id.  In Connecticut’s case, the one percent set aside is $23,700 for fiscal year 2004.

Given the above described federal statute, Mr. Wentworth wishes to know whether, and if so under what circumstances, his Agency may participate in the Awards Program.

In general, it is an impermissible use of office in violation of 1-84(c) of the Code for a state employee to receive remuneration in addition to his or her state salary for performance of official duties.  See, e.g., State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 89-20, 51 CLJ  7, p. 3C (August 15, 1989):  wherein the Commission ruled that the acceptance of tips by state employees was prohibited.

The question now before the Commission is, however, distinguishable.  In this instance, the additional compensation is not being provided by a private source.  Rather, it is to be provided by the State in furtherance of a federal mandate.  As such, it is essentially analogous to the state employee program established by the Office of Policy & Management to reward state servants who submit ideas for improving services or reducing costs.  See Conn. Gen. Stat. 4-67f.

As a consequence, no provision of the Ethics Code will prohibit the Department of Labor from distributing cash awards to its employees pursuant to the federal Awards Program.  Of course, to avoid conflicts of interest, no department official involved in administering the Program or determining the recipients may be eligible for an award.  Finally, the Commission wishes to note that this Opinion addresses only the application of the Ethics Code, and should not be construed as interpreting any relevant collective bargaining obligations.

By order of the Commission,

Rosemary Giuliano
Chairperson

 


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