Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today defended his energy and environmental commissioner, Daniel C. Esty, saying that Esty’s acceptance of a $7,500 speaking fee from United Illuminating in 2009 does not disqualify him to over see state energy policy.

“I don’t believe there is any conflict of any kind,’ Malloy said of the fee Esty collected as a Yale professor, two years before becoming a public official.

State ethics law is solidly on Esty’s side. Connecticut law prohibits actions as a public official that personally benefit that offiicial.

It is silent on the grayer question of appearances: When does a past business relationship call into question an official’s independence? When is an official compromised, not by a violation of law, but by how it might look?

On those questions, the state’s ethics laws give no guidance.

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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