Office of State Ethics
At a Glance
BENJAMIN BYCEL, Executive Director
Citizenís Ethics Advisory Board Members - Patricia T. Hendel (Chair), Robert N. Worgaftik (Vice Chair), Jaclyn Bernstein, Michael Rion, Rebecca M. Doty, Scott A. Storms, Dennis Riley, Enid Johns Oresman, Sister Sally J. Tolles
Established - July 1, 2005
Statutory authority - Public Act 05-183
Central office - 18-20 Trinity Street, Suite 205,
Hartford, CT† 06106
Number of employees: 11
Recurring operating expenses - Personal Services of $410,498.60 and other expenditures of $106,376.42 for fiscal year 2006 (figures represent actual expenditures for transitional staffing period and do not reflect the budget of the fully-staffed agency)
Organizational structure - Citizenís Ethics Advisory Board, Executive Director, Legal Division and Enforcement Division.
The Office of State Ethics (OSE) is an independent watchdog agency for the State of Connecticut.† The OSE administers Connecticut General Statutes, Chapter 10, Part I for Public Officials and Part II for Lobbyists.† The mission of the Office of State Ethics is to ensure honesty, integrity and accountability in state government through education, interpretation and enforcement of the State of Connecticut Codes of Ethics.
††† †The statutory responsibilities of the Office of State Ethics can be broken down into four main categories: education, interpretation, enforcement and preservation.† The OSE is charged with providing education to state employees, public officials, lobbyists and legislators on the Codes of Ethics.† The Citizenís Ethics Advisory Board is responsible for hearing issues regarding the Codes of Ethics as well as issuing Advisory Opinions Ė interpretations of the Codes as they apply to specific situations. All investigatory matters are the responsibility of the Ethics Enforcement Officer.† The OSE is also statutorily obligated to receive, process and maintain records of all lobbyist filings along with public official and state employee Statements of Financial Interests (SFIs).
††† †The Office of State Ethics is committed to carrying out its mission in the user-friendliest manner possible.† To this end, the OSE has placed top priority on fixing the online filing system that broke down during the interim period of the OSEís development.† Working with an outside consultant and the stateís Department of Information Technology, the agency is optimistic that an even easier, more intuitive online filing and public research system will be in place by the time of the next lobbyist filing in January 2007.† In addition to renewed and expanded online capabilities, the OSE is also increasing its physical office space to include a new public research area. Both initiatives are designed to improve the experiences of the regulated community and the general public when dealing with the OSE, as well as to increase the efficiency of daily business in the agency.
†††† In a special session of the General Assembly in June 2005, the legislature voted to eliminate the former State Ethics Commission (SEC) and replace it with a new Office of State Ethics (OSE).† The legislature provided the three-month period of July 1 to September 1, 2005 for the planning, initiating and implementation of the statutory and administrative framework for the new agency.† Pursuant to Section 36 of Public Act 05-183, the staff members of the original State Ethics Commission were transferred to other state agencies, along with funding for their positions.† During this temporary transition period, Mitchell Pearlman, the long-time head of the Freedom of Information Commission, served as the new agencyís Interim Executive Director, and the former SEC commissioners continued their service as permitted by law through September, 2005.†
†††† The appointments of the first new Citizenís Ethics Advisory Board members became effective on October 1, 2005.† The membership of the current board is detailed above, in the ďAt-a-GlanceĒ section of this report.† On December 13, 2005, the Citizenís Ethics Advisory Board unanimously selected Benjamin Bycel, the founding Director of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, to be the first Executive Director of the OSE.† He began work just three days later.
†††† In a relatively short time period, the OSE has seen many substantive accomplishments.† Among the first major tasks was to implement an immediate working budget for the agency and develop a 2007 operational budget.† This operational budget satisfactorily passed through the Appropriations Committee and subsequently the General Assembly.† The Department of Administrative Services and the Office of Policy and Management also approved job descriptions for 19 staff positions that will ultimately service the entire, functioning OSE.† Eleven such positions have been filled by the August 1, 2006 filing of this report with the Department of Administrative Services.
†††† Since its beginning, the OSE has taken its charge of education seriously.† An education officer was hired in March 2006, and since that time, the OSE has conducted nine in-person training events on Part I of the Code of Ethics, reaching over 700 public officials and state employees.† More in-person training events are planned each month throughout the remainder of 2006.†† All training events are posted on the OSEís website, in the calendar feature.† Most notable among these was a conference (held on two separate days to accommodate as many people as were interested) that exceeded the statutory obligation in Connecticut General Statutes 1-89a (b).† The conference was offered to all state agency ethics liaison officers and ethics compliance officers, including officers from executive branch and quasi-public agencies.† The legislative leadership and agency heads were also invited to attend.† These ďtrain-the-trainerĒ conference days included participation from the Governorís office and contained a broad values-based discussion of ethics in government as well as a detailed overview of Part I of the Code of Ethics with accompanying materials.
†††† To supplement these in-person trainings, the OSE has also instituted monthly communications to each agencyís ethics liaison officer and/or compliance officer.† An electronic newsletter is sent from the OSE at the end of each month to these individuals for their dissemination to agency personnel.† These communications contain summaries of new advisory opinions issued by the Citizenís Ethics Advisory Board, answers to frequently-asked questions, user-friendly handouts on complex topics and more.† The communications are also all available to the general public on the OSEís website, in the newly-created ďEthics Liaison/Compliance Officer Corner.Ē†
†††† The OSE is currently working with the Department of Transportationís Research and Communications staff to produce a web-accessible presentation on Part I of the Code of Ethics that will be made available to every state agency and/or employee.† For those agencies without proper bandwidth capabilities for web viewing, the OSE will make DVDs of the presentation available.† Until these new products are accessible, a video of the complete June 6 conference is available for public viewing via CT-Nís website (a link also appears on the OSEís site).† In these ways, the agency is effectively reaching all individuals covered by Part I of the Code of Ethics, as well as any member of the general public interested in the law.
†††† With assistance from the OSEís legal division staff, the Citizenís Ethics Advisory Board issued six advisory opinions in 2006.† Full text and summaries of the advisory opinions are available on the OSEís website.† The general counsel staff has also written 136 staff opinions in addition to providing legal advice via the telephone on a daily basis.†
†††† The Enforcement Division of the Office of State Ethics is engaged in investigating numerous complaints regarding potential violations of the codes as well as working with delinquent filers to ensure that the Governorís filing directive is being accurately followed.† While these investigations and related efforts continue, the Office of State Ethics is continuing the search for a highly-qualified Ethics Enforcement Officer.
†††† Even without the aid of an operational online filing system, the Office of State Ethics has made great strides in receiving, processing and preserving lobbyist registration information.† Since the beginning of the year, over 1,500 lobbyist reports have been received and processed through a mix of electronic and conventional means.† Approximately 2,700 Statements of Financial Interests were received and processed manually.† As noted above, the OSE is working diligently with an outside consultant and the Department of Information Technology to provide expanded online filing and research capabilities well before the next filing deadline of January 2007.
†††† The Citizenís Ethics Advisory Board and the staff of the OSE are aware of, and committed to fulfilling with excellence, their responsibilities under the law.† The OSE will continue to educate the regulated community about the codes, interpret and apply the codes, investigate and issue complaints for potential violations and provide public information in the best tradition of an open, independent agency.