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Ethics board votes to end 'celebrity' policy on deals

HARTFORD, Conn. -- The University of Connecticut's coaches
should be treated no differently than other state employees when it
comes to enforcing the state's ethics rules on gifts and outside
work, the state Ethics Commission ruled Monday.

The decision ends a policy that allowed "celebrity" state
employees to bypass rules governing the conduct of Connecticut
state employees.

The decision will allow the coaches to keep their previously
approved endorsement deals, but subjects future contracts to
stricter ethical review.

The commission spent three months reviewing its treatment of
"celebrity" employees at the request of Gov. M. Jodi Rell,
following reports that UConn men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun and
women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma were paid by Nike in part
for providing their teams with Nike gear, in apparent conflict with
state ethics laws.

Messages seeking comment were left Monday at UConn for both
coaches. An attorney for Auriemma attended Monday's meeting but
declined to comment on the decision.

The commission's staff determined there is no statutory or
regulatory basis for treating celebrity state employees or public
officials differently from other state employees and public
officials.

"The commission intends that it [or its successor] will review
requests for advice concerning outside employment in a manner that
treats all state employees equally," Alice Sexton, a principal
attorney, wrote in a draft response to the commission.

The subcommittee is recommending that any new contract or
extension be reviewed by ethics officials to ensure strict
compliance with ethics rules that bar state employees from using
their public positions for private gain.

The decision is expected to be one of the last for the state
Ethics Commission, which will be replaced in July by a state Office
of State Ethics and a Citizens' Ethics Advisory Board.