December 2, 2008
By: Sandra Norman-Eady, Chief Attorney
You asked if the General Assembly can pass a law to prohibit a former executive director or staff member of a commission from serving as a commission member for a specified period of time.
The General Assembly could pass such a law as an additional prohibition under the state's “revolving door” law. Although current revolving door laws apply to former executive directors and staff members of commissions, there is currently no prohibition against them serving as commission members after they leave state service.
The last attempt at expanding revolving door legislation occurred in 2005. That year sHB 6616 sought to prohibit lobbyists from serving on any state commission or state or quasi-public agency board and legislators from serving on any quasi-public board of directors. The bill died on the House calendar.
HISTORY OF REVOLVING DOOR LEGISLATION
The General Assembly enacted revolving door legislation in 1983 (PA 83-586) based on the findings and recommendations of the Codes of Ethics Study Committee. The committee was established by legislation in 1982 (PA 82-423) “to study the codes of ethics for public officials and lobbyists for the purpose of making technical and policy revisions.” A review of the committee's report reveals that the revolving door provision was designed to address three conflicts that can result from the transition from public to private employment:
1. former officials or former state employees could exert undue influence over the former agency,
2. former officials or former state employees could receive preferential treatment, and
3. former officials or former state employees could intentionally or subconsciously misuse confidential information acquired while they worked for the government.
Two types of legislation currently address potential conflicts created when former state officials and employees leave government service. The first aims to preclude the former official or employee from exerting undue influence over his former agency, the second from intentionally or subconsciously misusing confidential information acquired in office.
Restrictions of the first type are aimed at contact with the former agency, since any contact could result in preferential treatment by virtue of the individual's former status. The undue influence guarded against is that which results from mere association with the former agency. In fact this undue influence may be strongest where informal communications between the agency and a former agency official or employee are concerned since no official records of the contact are kept. A cooling off period is believed to combat the exertion of undue influence since influence tends to fade with time.
Restrictions on the second type are aimed at making sure that former public officials and state employees do not benefit from confidential information obtained during the course of their public service. The information protected is that which would give the official or employee an unfair advantage.
CURRENT, PERTINENT REVOLVING DOOR LAWS
Current, pertinent revolving door laws prohibit former:
1. public officials and employees from disclosing or using confidential information acquired in the course of their duties for financial gain (CGS § 1-84a);
2. executive branch and quasi-public agency public officials and employees from representing anyone, other than the state, concerning any matter in which (a) they personally and substantially participated while in state service and (b) the state has a substantial interest (CGS § 1-84b (a)); and
3. executive branch and quasi-public agency officials and employees, for one year after state service, from representing anyone, other than the state, for compensation before their former employer concerning any matter in which the state has a substantial interest (CGS § 1-84b (b)).