REQUESTED BY: Ron A. Metzgar
QUESTION: May the former State Claims and Risk Administrator with the Office of Risk Management, now an employee of an independent consulting firm work on behalf of that firm to secure a consulting contract with the Office of Risk Management?
Mr. Metzgar was the State Claims and Risk Administrator for the Office of Risk Management. He is now employed by a private consulting firm. We are informed that the Office of Risk Management is considering soliciting bids for health care insurance benefits for the employees of the State of Nebraska. In order to do this bidding specifications will need to be prepared. It is possible that the preparation of these bidding specifications will require the services of independent consultants. Mr. Metzgar's firm describes itself as an independent risk management consultant. The firm is not in the business of selling insurance and therefore would not submit any bid on a health care plan.
At this time Mr. Metzgar is not a public official, candidate or public employee and therefore most sections of the Nebraska Political Accountability and Disclosure Act relating to conflicts of interest do not apply to him. His status with regard to the Act is essentially the same status as all other persons who are not candidates, public officials or public employees with one exception. Section 49-14,101(3) states, "no public official or public employee shall use that person's public office or any confidential information received through holding of a public office to obtain financial gain, other than compensation provided by law for himself or herself, a member of his or her immediate family, or a business with which the individual is associated". Inasmuch as Mr. Metzgar is no longer a public employee it is impossible for him to use a public office for financial gain. However, Mr. Metzgar may not use any confidential information gained while a public official to obtain financial gain for himself or for a business with which he is associated. In Advisory Opinion #45, the Commission took the position that the use of governmental information for the benefit of the person or business with which he is associated which information may not be confidential but which is generally not available to others is also prohibited.
Mr. Metzgar, therefore, may work to secure for his firm a contract from the Office of Risk Management.
We do not consider the question of whether or not Mr. Metzgar's firm is a business with which he is associated as defined in the Act. We take the position that Mr. Metzgar personally will benefit if he is able to secure the contract discussed.
Nothing in this opinion should be construed so as to relieve any person or public official from any obligation imposed by law in the awarding of a contract such as the one discussed in this opinion.