Dickman v. Office Of State Ethics, Citizen's Ethics Advisory Board
For an ethics enforcement proceeding, the preponderance of the evidence standard is appropriate. The Citizen Ethics Advisory Board, a division of the Office Of State Ethics, determined that Priscilla Dickman, a retired medical technologist at the University of Connecticut Health Center, violated the Code of Ethics for Public Officials, C.G.S. §1-79, during her employment by using state equipment and time to conduct a jewelry business and provide travel agent services. The trial court dismissed Dickman's appeal. She appealed raising multiple claims including that the board's action was invalid because two of its members were ineligible to participate. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The appointment issue concerning one member, Shawn Wooden, was not alleged in the pleadings and, therefore, not properly before the court. The other member, G. Kenneth Bernhard, was ineligible to serve when first appointed because he had held public office within three years of that appointment. But, Bernhard was reappointed before the plaintiff's hearing. The Appellate Court found that the subsequent appointment was valid. Bernhard was then eligible and his term did not exceed the four year limit in C.G.S. §1-80 because the initial appointment was void. The plaintiff failed to amend her complaint to properly raise the claim that the board's decision should be vacated because members deliberated in private instead of in public in violation of the Freedom of Information Act, C.G.S. §1-82(b), and state regulations. The plaintiff further argued that the allegations required proof beyond a reasonable doubt or clear and convincing evidence. The Appellate Court disagreed citing the 2008 Supreme Court decision in Goldstar Medical Services, Inc. v. Department of Social Services, concerning Medicaid fraud. Because no statutory authority was found to require the clear and convincing evidence standard, the preponderance of the evidence standard properly was applied. The board did not erroneously construe C.G.S. §1-84(c), as claimed, to find that the plaintiff violated its provisions. The board's interpretation was time-tested and reasonable. The statute prohibits the "use" of the state employee's position to obtain financial gain. The board found that the plaintiff used state equipment and state time to conduct her other businesses.