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Ethics Commission to take no action
June 20, 1997
After a preliminary review of the spending practices of some University employees, the State Ethics Commission has decided that no formal action is required.

The review was held after The Hartford Courant reported that the University of Connecticut Foundation paid travel and lodging expenses to basketball games and other fund-raising events last year for family members of coaches and other officials.

In a letter to the University, the commission said the employees acted in good faith in carrying out their jobs.

"An Ethics Commission staff review has shown that individual employees attempted, in good faith, to comply with the Code (of Ethics) by seeking and obtaining advice and approvals from supervisors, including those at the most senior level of administration.

"Further, the employees subsequently relied on this authorization to perform duties consistent with their responsibilities as state employees," the letter continued.

"We are pleased with the commission's decision," said Thomas Q. Callahan, associate vice president for institutional advancement. "It recognizes that the university employees were conscientious in attempting to follow the provisions of the state ethics code."

The commission also responded to a request from the university for clarification of how the ethics laws apply to university employees by issuing a 12-page opinion on a range of issues related to the university's fund-raising operations and athletics program.

The commission indicated, for example, that a spouse of a University employee expected occasionally to travel or attend events on university business may not receive gifts exceeding $50, or $150 in food and drink, from any one entity in a calendar year. However, this does not apply to a handful of employees who, because they are regularly involved in fund-raising activities, are reimbursed for expenses related to spousal travel as part of their compensation packages.

Callahan said the advisory opinion was balanced. "It clearly indicates that state ethics laws do apply to University employees but provides some relief in recognition of the highly competitive market environment in which the University operates," he said.

He added that it is important for University employees to be aware of the state ethics law. "We plan to ensure that University employees comply with the provisions of the code, by increasing their awareness about what's required on issues ranging from spousal participation to acceptance of gifts and meals from third parties."