Code of Ethics for Public Officials and State Employees
A summary of the main points of the code (see Sec. 1-79 through 1-90 of the state statutes) follows. If you have questions or seek information about the code, write to the Ethics Commission, 20 Trinity St., Hartford, CT 06106, or telephone 860-566-4472.
WHO MUST COMPLY
State officials and employees (except judges), including sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, and those in quasi-public agencies, must comply with this code. Candidates for state office and former public officials and state employees must comply with some provisions.
STANDARDS SET BY THE CODE
The standards contained in Sec. 1-84 through 1-86 of the state statutes prevent you from using your public position or authority, or confidential information gained in state service for personal or financial benefit. The principal provisions of Sec. 1-84 prohibit you as a public official or state official from:
- Accepting outside employment that will impair your independence of judgment, or require or induce you to disclose confidential information gained in state service-Sec. 1-84(b).
- Using your public position or the confidential information you gained in state service for financial benefit, for family benefit or to benefit an associated business-Sec. 1-84(c).
- Representing another for compensation or being a member of a sole proprietorship, partnership, association or professional corporation representing a client for compensation before the Claims Commissioner, Office of Health Care Access, Connecticut Real Estate Commission, Connecticut Siting Council, Division of Special Revenue, Gaming Policy and State Insurance Boards, or the Banking, Consumer Protection, Environmental Protection, Motor Vehicles, and Public Utility Control departments. Commissioners or board members who receive no compensation other than per diem or expenses, and teaching or research employees of public institutions of higher education are exempted from this provision if their actions are not otherwise in violation of the code-Sec. 1-84(d).
- Soliciting or accepting anything of value based on an understanding that your official actions will be influenced. The prohibition also applies to candidates or to anyone offering or giving a thing of value-Sec. 1-84(f).
- Entering into contracts of $100 or more with the state unless awarded through an open and public process. The ban extends to your immediate family and associated businesses, but exempts public officials who receive no compensation except per diem or expenses, unless they have control over the subject matter of the contract. No executive head of an agency or quasi-public agency, or the individual's family or associated business may enter into a contract with that agency or quasi-public agency. Court appointments and contracts of employment as a state employee are exempt from this provision-Sec. 1-84(i).
- Accepting a gift from a registered lobbyist or the lobbyist's
representative, or from a person seeking business with the state, doing
business with the state, or directly regulated by your agency. The
limitation also applies to candidates, their immediate family and staff. A
gift does not include food and drink totaling less than $50 in a year if
consumed at occasions with the lobbyist or representative, ceremonial awards
of less than $100, and benefits costing less than $10 per person totaling
less than $50 in a year.
- Accepting a fee or honorarium for a speech, appearance or written article
in your official capacity. You may accept necessary expenses, however.
- Interfering with or soliciting contracts for a person.
Sec. 1-85 and 1-86 identify substantial and potential conflicts of interest. Under Sec. 1-85, you may not officially act where your financial interest, of that of your family or an associated business, will be affected by the action, such as awarding a contract to a private business you own. If the members of your profession, occupation or group, such as a teacher acting to uniformly benefit all teachers share your financial interest you may proceed under the rules of Sec. 1-86.
- If a member of a regulatory agency, you must be excused on request or prepare a written statement describing, the potential conflict and why you can act fairly, objectively and in the public interest. A copy will be sent to the Ethics Commission.
- When a substantial or potential conflict exists, you must prepare a written statement describing it and deliver the statement to your supervisor. If you have no immediate supervisor, deliver it to the Ethics Commission.
- If the financial effect is insignificant (less than $ 100 in a year) or no different than that for a substantial segment of the general public, such as a regulatory official approving an increase in residential electric rates, you may act.
Under Sec. 1-83, if you occupy a senior position in the legislative or executive branch of government or with one of the state's quasi-public agencies, you must file an annual statement by May 1 with the Ethics Commission disclosing the financial interests you held during the previous year. You also must disclose within 30 days any "necessary expense payments" received in your official capacity if lodging or out-of-state travel was included, unless it was provided by the federal or another state government. When a gift to the state of more than $50 incidentally benefits you, such as a regulated entity paying for a course relevant to your expertise, prior to its acceptance your superior must notify the Ethics Commission that the benefit facilitates state action or functions, and that it is sanctioned by your agency.
ENFORCEMENT PROCEDURES AND PENALTIES
The Ethics Commission or a member of the public may file a complaint if they believe that you have violated the code. A confidential staff evaluation generally precedes a complaint. A two-state process follows: a confidential investigation and probably cause hearing, and then a public hearing. At any time during the process, you may negotiate a settlement with the commission. After a finding or admission of violation, the commission may order you to comply with the code, to file a report or statement, or to pay a civil penalty of as much as $2,000 per violation. If you fail to file a required report, statement or other information, the commission may impose a civil penalty of as much as $10 per day. The total penalty for a single violation may not exceed $2,000. If the commission concludes that your violation was intentional, it may refer the matter to the chief state's attorney for action. An intentional violation is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine as large as $2,000 and a jail term as long as one year, or both. Also, the attorney general may sue you for as much as three times the economic gain you received by knowingly committing or profiting from a violation. The commission is authorized to protect the identity of an individual who supplies information about a code violation.
PROVISIONS APPLICABLE TO THOSE WHO HAVE LEFT STATE SERVICE OR A QUASI-PUBLIC AGENCY
- You may never disclose or use confidential information gained in public service for the financial benefit of anyone.
- You may never represent anyone (other than the state) concerning a matter in which you substantially participated while in state service and the state had a substantial interest.
- For one year after leaving state service, you may not represent anyone (other than the state) for compensation before the agency in which you were employed.
- If you substantially participated in a state contract or supervised the negotiation of one valued at $50,000 or more, you may not accept employment with a party to that contract (other than the state) within one year of its signing.
- If you served in a senior position with a state regulatory agency, for one year after leaving state service you may not accept employment with a business subject to regulation by the agency in which you served.
If you are responsible for determining eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits or assistance, you must avoid situations that create an appearance of a conflict of interest. Potential conflicts must be identified immediately and disclosed to your supervisor. If you are involved in processing a claim, you may not participate in a case in which you have personal interest, including a discussion, transaction or process that may have an effect on the disposition or processing of the claim. You are presumed to be an interested party in cases involving your relatives, both natural and marital. Also, an employee may be considered to have an interest in a case where a relationship with or obligation to a claimant or employer exists for whatever reason, including personal ties of a social, fraternal, fiduciary or economic nature.