Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Reading in between the lines to see what is "Connecticut's business as usual"

Ethics Panel To Probe Cars Deal
April 5, 2005
Hartford Courant Staff Writers (ctnow.com)

The state ethics commission plans to look into an outside endorsement contract under which University of Connecticut Athletic Director Jeff Hathaway and his wife receive free cars from a dealership that does business with his department.

Under the side contract with Monaco Ford of Glastonbury, Hathaway is given use of two new cars in exchange for advertisements, endorsements and consulting services for the dealership. But Hathaway acknowledged that he has not appeared in any ads, and a department spokesman said Hathaway has not performed any "formal" consulting work in the 20 months since he signed the contract.

Ethics commission Chairman Hugh Macgill said the agency's staff would evaluate the contract as part of a previously announced review of "celebrity exceptions" approved in recent years by the commission. State employees are generally prohibited from accepting outside compensation, but the commission eight years ago carved out an exception for those who have achieved a level of prominence independent of their state employment, including criminalist Henry Lee and UConn basketball coaches Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma.

"We want to see whether the justifications that were made initially for carving out a celebrity exception - and there are some justifications, I think - are, in fact, borne out by the way it has been applied and the way people have sought to secure it," Macgill said.

"It could be the policy still looks good, but the manner in which it is applied does not."

The contract between Hathaway and Monaco was approved by ethics commission Executive Director Alan Plofsky in August 2003. But after Plofsky was fired, Interim Executive Director Raymond Green chose not to approve a nearly identical Monaco contract submitted by one of Hathaway's assistants. Green sent a letter to Hathaway saying his contract "raises concerns" under state ethics laws because Hathaway's department negotiates corporate sponsorships for UConn athletics.

Under a sponsorship agreement signed before Hathaway became athletic director, Monaco pays $25,000 to UConn and provides three "courtesy cars" to the athletics department in exchange for season tickets to sporting events and advertising in publications.

That contract is up for renewal at the end of June.

NCAA rules allow athletic department officials to supplement their salaries through outside contracts only if they provide "bona fide" services.

Also, under state law and UConn policy, Hathaway, who earns $240,923 a year, could not accept the cars as an outright gift because Monaco does business with the school.

Macgill said the commission planned to study the details of all celebrity exceptions approved by the commission, including the Hathaway-Monaco deal and contracts with Nike signed by Calhoun and Auriemma. The Courant reported in February that a prior ethics commission had signed off on contracts for both coaches, even though the agreements contained provisions that the commission staff had ruled improper.

The commission has not established a timetable for that review, but Macgill said he expects commissioners will receive a progress report from the staff at the commission's April 12 meeting.

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