Ethics board votes to end 'celebrity' policy on deals

Updated: June 20, 2005, 3:21 PM ET
Associated Press

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.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press