Ethics: 2005 Guide to the Code of Ethics for Public Officials

2005 Guide to the Code of Ethics for Public Officials

NOTE:  This Guide summarizes only the main points of the Code.  It is unofficial and for the convenience of the public only.  For the full text, with all conditions and exceptions, consult Connecticut General Statutes, Chapter 10, Part I.  For interpretations of the Code contact the Office of State Ethics.

WHO MUST COMPLY: 
All state officials and employees (except judges).

NOTE:  All officials and employees of the State’s Quasi-Public Agencies are included in the Code’s definitions of “public official” or “state employee,” and are subject to the Code.  Certain provisions of the Code apply to former public officials and state employees. 

WHAT STANDARDS DOES THE CODE SET: 

The main ethical rules are contained in Connecticut General Statutes Sections 1-84 through 1-86.  Basically, these sections are intended to prevent one from using public position or authority for personal financial benefit.  The principal provisions of Section 1-84 prohibit:

  • Acceptance of outside employment which will impair independence of judgment as to official duties or require or induce disclosure of confidential information gained in state service.  (Generally outside employment is barred if the private employer can benefit from the state servant’s official actions.   For example, if the individual in his or her state capacity has regulatory or contractual authority over the private entity.  A state servant is not prohibited, however, from using his or her expertise for private gain, as long as no provision of the Code is violated in the process.);
  • Use of public position or confidential information gained in state service for the  financial benefit of the individual, his or her family (spouse, child, child’s spouse, parent, brother or sister), or an “associated business” (defined to include any entity through which business for profit or not for profit is conducted in which the state servant, or an immediate family member, is a director, officer or owner).  (NOTE:  There is an exception to this definition for unpaid services as an officer or director of a non-profit entity.);
  • Representation of another for compensation, or being a member of a business which represents a client for compensation, before the:  Banking Department; Connecticut Siting Council; Department of Environmental Protection; Claims Commissioner; office within Consumer Protection Department which carries out duties of the former Department of Liquor Control; Connecticut Real Estate Commission; Department of Public Utility Control; Department of Motor Vehicles; Insurance Department; State Insurance and Risk Management Board; Gaming Policy Board; Division of Special Revenue; and Office of Health Care Access.  (Exempt from this prohibition are members of boards, commissions, and quasi-public agencies who receive no compensation other than per diem payments or necessary expenses, or both, and teaching or research professional employees of public institutions of higher education provided their actions are not otherwise in violation of the Code of Ethics.);
  • Solicitation or acceptance of anything of value based on an understanding that one’s official action will be influenced thereby.  (Prohibition applies to candidates and to anyone offering or giving the thing of value.);
  • Entering into contracts with the State valued at $100 or more, unless the contract has been awarded through an open and public process.  (Ban extends to immediate family and associated businesses but exempts executive branch and quasi-public agency officials who receive no compensation except per diem payments or necessary expenses, or both, unless official has control over subject matter of contract.  Contracts of employment as a state employee and contracts made by court appointment are exempt from the provision.)  Additionally, no executive head of an agency; no executive head of a quasi-public agency; and no member of such individual’s immediate family or a business with which he is associated may enter into any contract with that agency or quasi-public agency;
  • Acceptance of any gift or gifts from one known to be a registered lobbyist or lobbyist’s representative.  (Limitation also applies to candidates, immediate family and staff members. “Gift” does not include food and drink totaling less than fifty dollars per person in a calendar year, if consumed on occasions at which the lobbyist, or a representative of the lobbyist, furnishing the food and drink is in attendance.  Among the other items excluded from the definition of “gift” are presents given by lobbyists incident to “major life events,” ceremonial awards costing less than one hundred dollars, benefits costing less than ten dollars per person per occasion up to fifty dollars total in a calendar year, and gifts to the state.);
  • Acceptance of any gift or gifts from any person doing business with, seeking to do business with or directly regulated by the state servant’s agency or department; 
  • Acceptance of any fee or honorarium given in return for a speech or appearance made or article written in one’s official capacity.  (Acceptance of the individual’s necessary expenses is permissible, however.);
  • Interference with or solicitation of lobbying contracts for any person.

Section 1-85 (substantial conflict) and Section 1-86 (potential conflict) are distinct but related provisions to consider when a possible conflict is identified: 

  • Section 1-85:  If faced with taking official action which you expect will directly affect your financial interests, or that of your spouse, dependent child, or an associated business, distinct from others in your occupation or group (e.g., taking official action on the awarding of a contract to a private business you own), you have a substantial conflict of interest under Section 1-85 and may not act under any circumstances.
  • Section 1-86:  However, if your financial interest is shared by the other members of your profession, occupation, or group (e.g., a public official/teacher acting on a matter that will result in a uniform financial benefit to all teachers) you may proceed under the rules of Section 1-86.  Specifically:  (A) if you are a member of a regulatory agency, you must either be excused or prepare, under penalty of false statement, a written statement (to be entered into the minutes of your agency, copy to the Office of State Ethics) describing the potential conflict and stating why, despite the situation, you can act fairly, objectively and in the public interest; or (B) if not a member of a regulatory agency, you must prepare a written statement, under penalty of false statement, which describes the potential conflict.  You must deliver the statement to your superior, who will assign the matter to another who is not subordinate to you.  (If you have no immediate superior, deliver the statement to the Office of State Ethics for guidance on how to proceed.)
  • Note:  Under Section 1-86, if the financial effect on you, a family member, or an  associated business is insignificant (i.e., less than $100 in a calendar year), or no different than that of a substantial segment of the general public (e.g., a regulatory official approving an increase in residential electric rates), you may act without having to follow Section 1-86 procedures.

FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE: 

Certain public servants in significant positions in the Legislative and Executive Branches of State government and the State’s Quasi-Public Agencies must file annually with the Office of State Ethics by May 1 an Annual Statement of Financial Interests for the previous year.  See Conn. Gen. Stat. Section 1-83.

Additionally, each state servant must disclose to the Office of State Ethics, within thirty days, any “necessary expense” payments which the individual receives in his or her capacity as a public official or state employee if lodging and/or out-of-state travel is included, unless such expenses are paid for by the Federal Government or another State Government.

ETHICS CODE PROVISIONS APPLICABLE TO YOU WHEN LEAVING STATE (OR QUASI-PUBLIC AGENCY) SERVICE: 

  • Section 1-84a:  You may never use confidential information for

financial gain for yourself or any other person. This is a lifetime prohibition. “Confidential Information” is any information not generally available to the public.  The information may be in any form (written, photographic, recorded, computerized, etc.) including orally transmitted information, e.g., conversations, negotiations, etc.

  • Section 1-84b(a):  You may not represent anyone concerning any particular  matter in which you personally and substantially participated while in state service in which the state has a substantial interest.

This is a lifetime prohibition.  It applies regardless of where the representation occurs and whether or not compensation is involved.  The term “particular matter” must almost always be determined on a case-by-case basis.  Although the concept is essentially a narrow one, a principal purpose of this provision is to prevent “side switching” in the midst of on-going state proceedings.

  • Section 1-84b(b):  You may not, for one year, represent anyone before your former agency for compensation.

“Represent” (under both (a) and (b)) includes any action which reveals the identity of the individual, e.g., a personal appearance, phone call, signature on a document, identification on a firm’s letterhead, etc.

NOTE:  A former State Ethics Commission policy has been established to allow former state servants to enter into consulting and other employment contracts with their former agencies within the one year period.  Specifically, such conduct is permitted, as long as the re-employment is at no greater pay level than the individual was receiving at the time of separation from state service plus necessary expenses.  In essence, by prohibiting the negotiation of the compensation rate, this policy prevents improper use of influence and contracts for financial advantage.  At the same time, employment options of former state servants are not limited unnecessarily and the State is not denied these individuals’ expertise.  Those with questions concerning this policy should contact an Office of State Ethics attorney.

  • Section 1-84b(f):  If you participated substantially in the negotiation or award

of a state contract valued at $50,000 or more, you may not accept employment with a party to the contract for one year after leaving state service, if you resign within one year after the contract was signed.

Substantial participation is not limited to the chief negotiator or the individual who signs the contract.  Rather, the concept of substantial participation applies whenever the individual exercises discretionary authority at any level of the process.  “Employment” includes work as an independent contractor or consultant.

ENFORCEMENT PROCEDURES, PENALTIES: 

Enforcement of the Code is initiated by a complaint, filed by the ethics enforcement officer of the Office of State Ethics or any member of the public.  (In most instances, a complaint is preceded by a confidential staff evaluation.)  A two-stage process follows:  (1) confidential investigation and probable cause hearing; (2) if probable cause is found, a public hearing to determine if the Code has been violated.  (At any stage of the process the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board (“Board”) and Respondent may agree upon a settlement.)  After a finding or admission of a violation, the Board can order the Respondent to comply with the Code in the future, file any required report or statement, and pay a civil penalty.

Alternatively, for failure to file a report, statement, or other information required by the Code, the Board can, after a single hearing, impose a civil penalty of up to $10 per day, with the aggregate penalty for any one violation not to exceed $10,000.

If the Board concludes a violation was intentional, it can refer the matter to the Chief State’s Attorney for action.  An intentional violation of the Code is a misdemeanor for a first violation, unless the individual has derived a financial benefit of at least $1,000, in which case, the violation is a class D felony.

The Attorney General may sue for up to three times the economic gain received through knowingly committing or knowingly profiting from a violation of the Code.

IF YOU HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT THE CODE: 

Anyone subject to the Code may request the Board’s advice (advisory opinion) as to how the Code applies to a situation.  Attorneys within the legal division of the Office of State Ethics also provide informal advisory letters when the question posed is unambiguous or has been previously addressed by a prior advisory opinion. 

If you have any questions about this Guide or desire more information about the Ethics laws, please contact the Office of State Ethics staff or visit the Office of State Ethics website (www.ct.gov/ethics). 

Office of State Ethics
18-20 Trinity Street, Suite 205
Hartford, CT 
06106-1660
Phone:  (860) 566-4472   Fax:  (860) 566-3806
Hours:  Weekdays 8:30-4:30



Content Last Modified on 9/29/2005 2:49:10 PM