Ethics: Advisory Opinion NO. 2005-2

Advisory Opinion NO. 2005-2

 

Application of Outside Employment Rules to Division Director

at Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services

 

 

Ann Smith, the Ethics Compliance Officer for the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (“DMHAS”), has asked how the outside employment rules of the Code of Ethics for Public Officials, Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-79 et seq., apply to a DMHAS division director of addiction services who is contemplating accepting outside employment as a fee-for-service mental health clinician with a private provider of clinical services that receives funds under a contract with DMHAS.

 

Attorney Smith has provided a comprehensive summary of facts, including the following:  The division director does not have responsibility for DMHAS mental health programs, only addiction services programs.  The contemplated outside employment would not involve treatment for addictions.  As division director, the employee does not have any input into decisions about the awarding of contracts to private providers.  His state work does not directly involve clinical functions such as the writing of discharge plans or the making of client referrals.  There are seldom referrals from or to the potential private employer.  The division director has stated that he will not provide services to anyone discharged from a DMHAS facility, nor is he intending to accept clients from DMHAS’ target population.  It does not appear that the division director has access to confidential information that would be useful to his potential outside employer.  Finally, the division director has indicated a willingness to accept reasonable restrictions on his practice that might be necessary to address potential conflicts of interest under the Code of Ethics.

 

Although the Code of Ethics does not contain a blanket prohibition against outside employment, it does contain significant restrictions on that employment.  First, of course, a state employee may never use state time, materials or personnel to further his private work.  Under Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-84(b), a state employee may not accept outside employment that will either impair his independence of judgment as to his state duties or require or induce him to disclose confidential information gained in his state job.  Under §1-84(c), a state employee may not use his state position, or confidential information learned in that position, for financial gain.

 

Applying these rules to the facts that have been presented, if: (1) the division director does not have any input regarding whether his potential outside employer continues to have a contract with DMHAS, such as evaluating, or supervising the evaluation of, its performance, or referring clients to, or supervising referrals to, his outside employer; (2) does not provide services to DMHAS clientele, nor provide addiction services, and; (3) continues to have no access to confidential information of interest to his outside employer, then the Code of Ethics will not prohibit this

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contemplated outside employment.  Under Conn. Gen. Stat. §1-86(a), if the division director is required at some future date to take an action at DMHAS that would affect his financial interests at the outside employer, he must notify his supervisor in writing of the potential conflict of interest, and his supervisor must then refer the matter to someone at the director’s level or higher.  Of course, the division director should seek and receive approval for this outside employment from DMHAS as well, as that agency may have concerns that are not addressed by the Code of Ethics. 

 

 By order of the Commission
Hugh C. Macgill

                                               



Content Last Modified on 9/27/2005 9:47:41 AM