Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 2003-2

Advisory Opinion No. 2003-2
Advisory Opinion No. 2003-2

Application Of The Code To The Private Funding Of State Positions

In the wake of recent state layoffs, the State Ethics Commission has been asked whether it would be permissible, under the requirements of The Codes Of Ethics, for a state agency to fund the continuation of a position through private contributions from lobbyists or entities seeking business from, doing business with or subject to regulation by that agency.

In 1991, during a period of similar economic crisis, the Commission reviewed and endorsed then Governor Weicker’s Loaned Executive Program For State Service. State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 91-1, 52 Conn. L.J. No. 35, p. 1D (2/26/91). In issuing that Ruling, the Commission noted the obvious potential for conflicts of interest when a private entity pays the salary of an executive loaned to state service. To address those conflicts, the Commission held that the loaned executive could take no official action which financially affected the private entity, regardless of whether that entity met the Code’s definition of a "Business with which…associated."

Essentially the same positive opportunities and potential conflicts are present if a private entity directly pays for the continuation in public service of a laid-off state employee. As a consequence, the Commission believes an essentially parallel response is appropriate. Specifically, the funding of such a position by a lobbyist or other regulated entity will qualify as a "Gift to the State". Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-79(e)(5) and 1-91(g)(5). Again, however, the attendant, potential conflicts necessitate that a privately funded public servant refrain from taking any official action which would financially affect his or her benefactor, including actions which affect the private entity’s competitors for state contracts, funding, permits, etc.

In closing, the Commission believes it is important to note that, in contrast to loaned executives, the vast majority of the positions currently in question involve unionized workers. As a consequence, any private funding of such a position must not only comply with the Codes of Ethics but also with the relevant collective bargaining provisions entered into by the State Employee Unions and the State.

By order of the Commission,

Rosemary Giuliano

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:04:47 AM