Fasano Urges Health Care Committee to Adopt State Code of Ethics

September 15, 2015

Deadline Approaches for SIM Committee Members to Sign Conflict of Interest Forms

Hartford – Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven) wrote to Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman, Chair of the Healthcare Innovation Model Steering Committee; and Mark Schaefer, Director of Healthcare Innovation; urging the State Innovation Model (SIM) Steering Committee to adopt the state’s code of ethics in place of their watered down conflict of interest language.

The committee’s customized conflict of interest language was adopted in June after the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board found that a loophole left the committee exempt from the official state code of ethics. That’s because members are not considered ‘public officials’ under current law, which does not include anyone appointed by the lieutenant governor. In response, instead of adopting the state’s code of ethics, the committee crafted their own limited conflict of interest “safeguards.” Fasano joins multiple committee members in opposing the custom language.

“I am writing to strongly object to the watered down and weak ‘Conflict of Interest Safeguards for the State Innovation Model (SIM)’ that have been proposed as an alternative to our strong and well tested state code of ethics,” wrote Fasano. “The proposed safeguards provide merely the illusion of ethical standards and are in fact woefully inadequate. Instead of cherry picking to create a customized code of ethics, the committee should be adopting the formal state code of ethics for public officials.”

Fasano’s letter states that given the broad authority of the SIM committee members, “there is no question that, if such members were appointed by the governor, they would be considered ‘public officials,’ not advisory board members. In other words, if these members had been appointed by the governor, as is the customary practice for executive branch boards, they would be subject to the full code of ethics.”

“Their failure to adopt the state code of ethics begs the question: why?” wrote Fasano, citing the impropriety of allowing financially invested entities to decide who should receive valuable state grants, at times awarding grants to their own members. For example, the SIM Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) was allocated $1.4 million in their budget which can be used to fund community organizations, many of which employ CAB members. “This is a scary concept that certainly raises some issues in my mind.”

Sen. Fasano’s letter comes days before the September 16 deadline for SIM committee members to sign the new conflict of interest forms. Members who have expressed their discontent with the watered down language have been told that failure to sign off on the new policy by the deadline will result in them not being able to participate as members in future meetings of the advisory groups.

Fasano, who proposed an amendment last session that would have declared SIM Steering Committee members ‘public officials’ subject to the code of ethics, also said there is a need for future legislation to ensure that any appointees of the lieutenant governor or other constitutional officers be considered public officials and subject to the same code of ethics.

Letter from SIM members opposing new conflict of interest language can be viewed online here: http://www.cthealthpolicy.org/pdfs/20150904_sim_ethics_letter.pdf

Connecticut Office of State Ethics Ruling can be viewed here: http://www.ct.gov/ethics/lib/ethics/declaratory_rulings/2015/declaratory_ruling_2015-b_signed.pdf