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Tough Choices: Public Service Or Private Employment?

Tuesday, Apr. 19, 2011

What would you choose: serving on the city council for $6,400 or working as a consultant for a major architectural firm? This is the decision that faces George McGoldrick, a councilmember in Meriden, Connecticut.

The Board of Ethics advised McGoldrick he “could pursue the work, but would need to abstain from related City Council votes and refrain from appearing on the firm’s behalf before any city agencies, boards, or commissions.”

The problem lies in the description of his new job description. As a consulting architect he would be required to act as a liaison to public officials in Meriden. This conflict may prompt him to resign from the council.

But resigning may not solve the problem: the city ethics code prohibits former public employees and officials who are compensated for their work from appearing “for compensation before any City board or agency by which he was formerly employed, or which he provided service to, or was a member of, at any time within a period of one year after termination of his service with the City.”

McGoldrick has yet to make a decision, but one of his council colleagues offered this perspective. “If this was me, and a choice between paying my mortgage, my insurance and my livelihood meant that I might not be able to serve on the City Council because of those things, I would have to make sure my mortgage, my wife, my home was taken care of.”

Have you faced this dilemma? Do you know anyone who has had to choose between public service and a job in the private sector? What should McGoldrick do?

Tags: conflicts of interests, Connecticut, ethics codes, revolving door regulations

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