Advisory Opinion No. 2004-5
Application Of Code Of Ethics
For Public Officials To State
Employee Running For Governor
Joel Schweidel, a Principal Personnel Officer in the Labor Relations Unit of the
Department of Corrections (DOC), and his unit head, Daniel Callahan, have
asked the State Ethics Commission how the Code of Ethics for Public Officials, Conn.
Gen. Stat. §1-79 et seq., applies to Mr. Schweidel as he pursues a campaign for
governor. Mr. Schweidel has already
established a candidate committee pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. §9-333a(4) for
that purpose with the Secretary of State.
In his state job, Mr. Schweidel currently presents the management side
of labor cases for DOC, an occupation which results in extensive contacts with
unions. Previously, he was Chief
Negotiator for AFSCMEs NP-4 Corrections Unit.
According to Mr. Schweidel and Mr. Callahan, Mr. Schweidel would like to
solicit union members to contribute funds to his campaign and/or volunteer to
work on the campaign. It is anticipated that
at least one AFSCME union officer may play a major role in Mr. Schweidels campaign. Of course, such campaign work by the union
official and Mr. Schweidel, must not be done on state time, nor use state
campaign activities of state employees are generally governed by the provisions
of Conn. Gen. Stat. §5-266a, which is not within the jurisdiction of the State
State Ethics Commission. The Commission does
have jurisdiction over one regulation, §5-266a-1, Regulations of Connecticut
State Agencies, but that provision regulates the holding of elective municipal
office by classified state employees, and is therefore not relevant to the
question now posed. The Code of Ethics
does, however, prohibit a state employee from using his state position for the financial
gain of, among others, himself or a business with which he is associated. Conn.
Gen. Stat. §1-84(c). The Code also
prohibits the solicitation or acceptance of anything of value, including a
political contribution, based on any understanding that the vote, official
action or judgment of the state employee would be or had been influenced
thereby. Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-84(g). Finally,
the Code prohibits a state employee from knowingly accepting a gift from any
lobbyist, or any person the employee knows or has reason to know is regulated
by his agency or department. Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 1-84(m) and 1-84(j). The Code, however, also exempts from its
definition of gift (1) a properly-reported political contribution and (2)
services provided by persons volunteering their time. Conn. Gen. Stat. §§1-79(e)(1)
and 1-79(e)(2). See Advisory Opinion No. 2004-3, ___ Conn.
L.J. ___, p. __ ( ). Accordingly, the gift prohibitions of §§ 1-84(m) and
1-84(j) are inapposite to Mr. Schweidels question.
aforementioned rules to the facts presented, it would, of course, violate the
Code of Ethics for Mr. Schweidel to accept a contribution that is given with the understanding that his official actions would be
affected thereby. Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-84(g). The more difficult issue raised is the
application of the use of office provision of §1-84(c) to the solicitation
and/or acceptance of campaign contributions or volunteered services from
employees either supervised by Mr. Schweidel or subject to his authority as a
personnel officer. The Code of Ethics
does not contain any language prohibiting a DOC employee or AFSCME union member
from independently donating his or her money or time to Mr. Schweidels
campaign. As stated above, regulation of
the political activities of state employees is not within the jurisdiction of
the State Ethics Commission.
Turning to Conn.
Gen. Stat. §1-84(c), however, it would only constitute a use of his office for
financial gain if Mr. Schweidels candidate committee could be used for his own
personal financial gain, or the candidate committee otherwise constituted a
business with which he is associated under Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-79(b). Taking those issues in turn, first, pursuant
to Conn. Gen. Stat. §9-333i(g)(4), a candidate is proscribed from using
candidate committee goods, services, funds or contributions for his or his
immediate familys personal use. Second,
under §1-79(b), a business with which one is associated is
any sole proprietorship,
partnership, firm, corporation, trust or other entity through which business
for profit or not for profit is conducted in which the public official or state
employee or member of his immediate family is a director, officer, owner,
limited or general partner, beneficiary of a trust or holder of stock
constituting five per cent or more of the total outstanding stock of any class,
provided, a public official or state employee, or member of his immediate
family, shall not be deemed to be associated with a not for profit entity
solely by virtue of the fact that the public official or state employee or
member of his immediate family is an unpaid director or officer of the not for
By definition, candidate committees are not-for-profit
entities. While it does not appear that
Mr. Schweidel is an officer of his candidate committee, even if he were, he is
not paid. Accordingly, his candidate
committee is not a business with which he is associated as that term is used in
Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-84(c).
concluded that Mr. Schweidel is proscribed by elections laws from using his
candidate committee for his personal use, and that said committee is not a
business with which he is associated under the Code of Ethics, the Commission
must conclude that the Codes use of office for financial gain provision is not
applicable to this situation. A review
of other candidates situations reveals that, except for certain very specific
limitations (e.g., the restrictions on contributions to candidates for Treasurer
contained in Conn. Gen. Stat. §9-333n), candidates are permitted to, and oftentimes
do, solicit campaign funds from people from over whom they have some potential level
Callahan has also asked whether Mr. Schweidel can utilize public lists of state
e-mail addresses to solicit campaign contributions.
If the lists are public and equal access is
available to any other candidate for any other office, then the Code of Ethics
would not prohibit such activity. There
are, however, other restrictions on the use of the state e-mail system not
found within the Code of Ethics, and Mr. Schweidel should seek and receive the
appropriate approval before proceeding in this manner. Moreover, while not within the Commissions
jurisdiction, the Commission would advise Mr. Schweidel to take cognizance of the
campaigning restrictions placed on state employees in the Judicial Department
and classified service by Conn. Gen. Stat. §5-266a. Using the state e-mail lists could put other
state employees in jeopardy of violating that provision if, for example, they
forwarded an e-mail solicitation of Mr. Schweidels.
Callahan has indicated in his correspondence that the DOC is presently looking
at reassigning Mr. Schweidel to different duties at least temporarily.
While not required under the Code of Ethics,
the State Ethics Commission commends the DOC for offering a practical solution to what
some might believe constitutes the appearance of a conflict if not an actual
conflict -- raised by Mr. Schweidels campaign.