Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 2004-6

Advisory Opinion No. 2004-6

Application Of The Code’s Gift To The State Provision 

(Superseded by Statute; see Advisory Opinion 2007-12)

David O’Hearn, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Public Works (DPW),has asked the State Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion regarding the propriety of the DPW accepting free seminar training from individuals and companies which also have consulting contracts with the Department. 

Pursuant to an exception to the Ethics Code’s “Gift” definition, a state agency may accept “Goods or services…which facilitate state action or functions.”  Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-79(e)(5).  The state agency may receive such goods or services, even if the donor is a lobbyist or an entity doing business with or regulated by the agency.  Regulations of Conn. State Agencies §1-81-27(a). 

In prior advisory  opinions, the State Ethics Commission has expressed its belief that it is preferable for the State to pay for state operations and functions.  See, e.g., State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion No. 89-35, 51 CLJ No. 28, p. 16 (1/9/1990).  Nonetheless, as noted supra, it is unarguable that gifts to the State of goods and services from private entities with an interest in state action are permitted by statute and regulation.

In essence, under current law, it is up to the recipient agency to decide if the proffered gift should be accepted, regardless of any potential conflict of interest.  See, Regulations of Conn. State Agencies §1-81-27(b).  While the decision is, therefore, up to the DPW, the Commission notes that such gifts to the State potentially span a spectrum from ethically problematic (e.g. payment of expenses for a regulatory official to attend a conference at a resort location) to essentially unobjectionable.  In this instance, the services to be provided (one-two hour seminars on business and technical issues conducted at the agency) clearly fall within the unobjectionable category and may, in the Commission’s opinion, be accepted with propriety.

By order of the Commission

Rosemary Giuliano

Content Last Modified on 4/1/2010 1:54:30 PM