House Speaker J. Brendan Sharkey has received the go-ahead from state ethics regulators to accept a job as the new business development manager for an energy cooperative.
Sharkey\’s chief legal counsel, Ricky Baltimore, sought an advisory opinion from the Office of State Ethics for Sharkey to work for an organization called Everyone Can Help Out. The ruling says the entity is defined on its web site as \”an energy cooperative owned by municipal utilities.\’\’
The state ethics board said that Sharkey could go forward by stating, \”We conclude that the Speaker may accept the proposed outside employment, provided that he does not solicit business from either client or communicator lobbyists, that he is hired by virtue of his expertise (rather than his state office), and that he abides by the limitations\’\’ set forth in the six-page ruling.
In an interview Thursday with Capitol Watch, Sharkey said that the high-profile nature of the Speaker\’s office should prompt anyone holding the office to check in advance before accepting an outside job.
\”I think it\’s important to ensure that you are not crossing any boundaries that you might not otherwise have thought of,\’\’ Sharkey said. \”There\’s nothing going on here that I wouldn\’t want the public to know about. It\’s part of the job. I think it\’s important to maintain a high level of integrity, obviously, to the office. This is one small thing that you can do that you\’re accomplishing.\’\’
The limitations, the ruling said, include that the Speaker must not:
\”trade on his [state] position … in order to receive favorable treatment … including taking official action as a quid pro quo for any other business deal, opportunity, or advantage.\’\’
\”exploit contacts made in state service to recruit private clients for the outside employer\’\’
\”make any promise or imply that he will take any official action in exchange for favorable treatment of a client\’\’
\”use his state title in any way in an effort to solicit business for the outside employer.\’\’
Those four limitations are among nine that are mentioned in the ruling, which was issued as an advisory opinion by the Citizen\’s Ethics Advisory Board.
\”There was nothing in that list of items that I was concerned about,\’\’ Sharkey said. \”But it helps to have it in writing. It\’s the reality of anybody here in the legislature. We don\’t make a lot of money in the legislature. It\’s part-time. You want to make sure that you\’re never going to cross any boundaries. It\’s always best to err on the side of caution.\’\’
The ruling mentions the specific details of Sharkey\’s new position and whom he will be contacting to generate new business for Energy New England, LLC.
The company \”offers a comprehensive portfolio of solutions that help our customers to secure savings, optimize operations, generate revenues and promote environmental stewardship.\’\’ The main targets for new business are \”investor and municipal utilities; water companies; and institutional, commercial and industrial accounts.\’\’
The largest number of municipal utilities in the organization is Massachusetts at 35 to 40. Rhode Island has only one municipal utility, while Connecticut has a handful in places like Wallingford, South Norwalk, and Jewett City. The other three states in northern New England are not involved in the organization, and Sharkey will not be working in Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine.
No precise salary was mentioned in the ruling, but Sharkey\’s compensation would include \”competitive base salary, sales commissions, and performance-based incentives.\’\’
Sharkey already started working for ECHO last month.
After referring to an opinion regarding a previous Speaker, the ruling stated, \”Here, the Speaker does not expect to interact with lobbyists as part of his job duties; neither ECHO nor Energy New England LLC, is a registered lobbyist in Connecticut; and neither entity is currently seeking or expecting to seek any legislative action from the Connecticut General Assembly.\’\’