January 17, 2008
ADVISORY OPINIONS ON THE GIFT BAN
By: Sandra Norman-Eady, Chief Attorney
You asked if the Office of State Ethics (OSE) has issued advisory opinions recently that exempt state employees from the gift ban that applies to elected state officials.
Under the State Code of Ethics, state public officials and employees (and sometimes their immediate families and staff) are prohibited from accepting gifts from certain people.
The Office of State Ethics, the agency charged with enforcing the code, issued four advisory opinions (AOs) interpreting the code's gift ban provisions in 2007. None of these opinions exempt state employees from a gift ban.
The following gift exchanges are prohibited under the State Code of Ethics.
1. State public officials and employees and members of their immediate families are prohibited from knowingly accepting, directly or indirectly, any gift costing $100 or more from a public official or employee (1) under their supervision or (2) who supervises them. Public officials and state employees cannot give gifts in violation of (1) or (2) (CGS § 1-84 (p)).
2. Neither public officials nor state employees may knowingly accept a gift from any person they know or have reason to know is:
(a) doing business with or seeking to do business with his or her department or agency,
(b) engaged in activities which are directly regulated by such department or agency, or
(c) a prequalified state contractor under General Statutes § 4a-100 (CGS § 1-84 (m)).
3. Public officials, state employees, candidates for public office, and members of their immediate families and staff may not knowingly accept gifts from known registrants (lobbyists required to register with OSE) or people acting on registrants' behalf (CGS § 1-84 (j)).
4. Public officials, state employees, and candidates for public office may not accept anything of value, including a gift, loan, political contribution, reward, or promise of future employment, based on any understanding that their vote, official action, or judgment would be or had been influenced thereby (CGS § 1-84 (g)).
5. No person may give anything of value, including a gift, loan, political contribution, reward, or promise of future employment, to a public official, state employee, candidate for public office, a member of his or her immediate family, or an associated business based on an understanding that his or her vote official action, or judgment would be or had been influenced thereby (CGS § 1-84 (f)).
In 2007 AOs, the OSE concluded that:
1. Judicial Department employees cannot accept gifts from attorneys licensed in this state because the department and its components are a single state agency that regulates (licenses) the attorneys (AO 2007-2);
2. supervisors and subordinates cannot pool their money to give a group gift in excess of the individual monetary limit set in the code (AO 2007-5);
3. members of councils appointed by the governor and authorized to expend public funds in the form of grants are public officials and thus subject to the gift bans (AO 2007-7); and
4. businesses that register with the Office of the Secretary of the State's Commercial Recording Division are not “doing business with” or “regulated by” that office; thus, the businesses are not subject to the ban against gift giving (AO 2007-14).