Commission on Public Integrity Eases Restrictions On Laid-Off State Employees

Commission on Public Integrity Eases Restrictions On Laid-Off State Employees

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 15, 2010
CONTACT: Walter C. Ayres
                     518-474-4418

ALBANY – The New York State Commission on Public Integrity today announced that is has taken steps to make it easier for State employees affected by layoffs to look for other employment.

In 2006, the State Ethics Commission, a predecessor of the Commission on Public Integrity, issued an advisory opinion setting guidelines for a State officer or employee to follow when engaging in communications with a prospective employer with whom he or she, or whose agency, has matters pending. That Commission, in Advisory Opinion No. 06-01, sought to balance the competing interests of permitting State officers and employees to pursue post-government employment opportunities in the private sector with the need to maintain the integrity of State government by preventing conflicts of interest.

Among the guidelines was a requirement that a State officer or employee may not solicit a post-government employment opportunity with any person that has a specific matter pending before him or her; and may only solicit an employment opportunity from such a person, 30 days from the time a matter is closed or the officer or employee ceased involvement as a result of recusal or reassignment;

Recently, however, this Commission was contacted by the State Department of Environmental Conservation, which said that the 30-day recusal period creates an untenable situation for two groups of employees who may be potentially subject to layoffs. First, for employees who will be laid-off, the 30-day recusal period prevents employees from searching for outside employment until close to the time that the person will actually be leaving State service and, under certain circumstances, until after the person has been laid-off. Second, with respect to employees who are subject to a vertical “bump” downward or relocation across a county line, an employee who accepts the bump or relocation has the option of deciding before December 31 whether he or she would prefer to accept a layoff. An employee would likely decide not to accept the bump or relocation only if the person was able to secure other employment. The limited time frame that is available for individuals to choose whether to accept the bump, relocation or layoff, in combination with the 30-day recusal period, leaves little, if any, time for a DEC employee to search for private sector employment in order to make an informed decision about which option to choose without potentially violating the Public Officers Law.

In a new advisory opinion, the Commission announced that the 30-day recusal period set forth in Advisory Opinion No. 06-01 does not apply to State officers or employees who have been targeted for layoffs, as well as for such State officers or employees who may opt for bumping, relocation or layoff, because their position will be eliminated due to reduction in the State workforce.

A State officer or employee in such circumstances who pursues potential post-government employment opportunities must still recuse from any matters pertaining to any private entity with which he or she has employment related communications either for the duration that the employee remains employed by the agency, if targeted for layoff, or until the employee accepts another State position, if targeted for bumping or relocation. After such an employee accepts a new State position, if he or she engages in post-government employment communications with a private-sector employer who has matters before the State employee in the new position, he or she must abide by the guidelines set forth in Advisory Opinion No. 06-01.

The full opinion is available on-line at http://www.nyintegrity.org/advisory/cpi/2010/10-04.pdf