Family Matters: Connecticut Governor Requests Ethics Opinion on His Wife

by | March 25, 2019 AT 3:40 PM

By Christopher Keating

Gov. Ned Lamont has asked state ethics officials for an official opinion on potential conflicts of interest for his wife, a highly successful venture capitalist.

A Greenwich multimillionaire, Annie Lamont has been involved in millions of dollars worth of deals during her career in venture capital, where her firm helps provide funding to companies mainly in the areas of health care and financial technology.

Prompted by Lamont's request, the Citizen's Ethics Advisory Board voted Thursday to move forward with writing a formal advisory opinion on any potential conflicts.

Robert W. Clark, a former Superior Court judge who serves as general counsel in the governor's office, wrote a detailed letter to the board that sought advice on potential conflicts.

Even though she is not elected, Annie Lamont is still considered to be a "public official" under the law and must abide by the ethics rules, officials said.

As co-founder and executive managing member of a firm known as Oak HC/FT Management Company, LLC, Annie Lamont also oversees "certain general partnerships for private investment funds managed by Oak HC/FT," Clark wrote. Oak manages funds in about 30 portfolio companies.

Although Clark said he believes a conflict is "highly unlikely to arise," he sought a formal opinion in writing to provide guidance in future circumstances.

"Nevertheless, out of an abundance of caution, the governor and Mrs. Lamont intend to take proactive measures to eliminate any possibility of a 'substantial conflict of interest' or a 'potential conflict of interest' in the case of Mrs. Lamont," Clark wrote the ethics board. "Specifically, Governor Lamont and Mrs. Lamont intend to proactively recuse themselves from taking any official action that directly and specifically involves Oak ... or any of their respective portfolio companies."

As part of this move, Lamont will tell his budget office -- known as the Office of Policy and Management -- to avoid approving "any sole source contracts with any business on the recusal list" of Oak, he said.

Clark wrote that both Lamonts "must abstain from taking official action on any matter that presents a substantial conflict for them, their immediate family or any associated business." A conflict means that they could "derive a monetary gain or suffer a direct monetary loss by reason of [their] official activity," Clark wrote.

Ned Lamont is the first business owner to become governor in decades. But he sold his stake in the telecommunications company he founded before running for governor.

In a November interview, Annie Lamont said she had already received dozens of messages from contacts all over the world who were eager to connect with the new administration.

"We're excited about leveraging that," she said. Asked about any potential ethical conflicts, she said, "we're going to be very careful and transparent about that."

Clark outlined two scenarios of potential conflict, including getting involved in negotiations for a state contract. Currently, Oak and its companies do not have any state contracts.

"In the ordinary course of state business, neither the governor nor Mrs. Lamont would be involved in such contract negotiations, enter into any contracts on behalf of the state, or be responsible for their implementation or oversight," Clark wrote.

The second scenario is if the state legislature passes any bills that would benefit Oak or its associated businesses. The standard in those cases is whether the legislature's action "accrues equally to all members of such profession, occupation or group" and that Oak does not benefit more than others, officials said.

(c)2019 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)