Minutes January 26, 2021 MINUTES OF THE OPEN SESSION OF THE RHODE ISLAND ETHICS COMMISSION January 26, 2021 The Rhode Island Ethics Commission remotely conducted its 2nd meeting of 2021 in Zoom webinar format at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 26, 2021, pursuant to the notice published at the Commission offices, 40 Fountain Street, Providence, Rhode Island, and electronically with the Rhode Island Secretary of State. The following Commissioners were present: Marisa A. Quinn, Chair J. Douglas Bennett Arianne Corrente, Vice Chair Timothy Murphy Kyle P. Palumbo, Secretary Emili B. Vaziri M. Therese Antone The following Commissioner was not present: Robert A. Salk. Also present were Herbert F. DeSimone, Jr., Commission Legal Counsel; Jason Gramitt, Commission Executive Director; Katherine D’Arezzo, Senior Staff Attorney; Lynne Radiches, Staff Attorney/Education Coordinator; Staff Attorneys Teresa Giusti and Teodora Popova Papa; and Commission Investigators Steven T. Cross; Peter J. Mancini; and Gary V. Petrarca. At 9:02 a.m., the Chairopened the meeting. The first order of business was: Discussion of Remote Meeting Format; Identifying and Troubleshooting any Remote Meeting Issues. Executive Director Gramitt stated that the Commission has been operating pursuant to the Governor’s executive orders relating to remote meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. He explained that copies of the agenda and draft advisory opinions for today’s meeting are available on the Commission’s website. He further explained that following the adjournment of Open Session, everyone will leave the meeting and the Commission will convene in Executive Session in a separate webinar meeting, after which the Commission will return to Open Session to provide a live report on all actions taken in Executive Session. Executive Director Gramitt informed that a written report of all actions taken in Executive Session will be published and available on the Commission’s website after the meeting ends. Copies of the written report can also be requested by calling the Commission at (401) 222-3790 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The next order of business was: Approval of minutes of the Open Session held on January 12, 2021. Upon motion made by Commissioner Antone and duly seconded by Commissioner Vaziri, it was VOTED: To approve the minutes of the Open Session held on January 12, 2021. AYES: Marisa A. Quinn; M. Therese Antone; Arianne Corrente; Timothy Murphy; Kyle P. Palumbo; and Emili B. Vaziri. ABSTENTION: J. Douglas Bennett. The next order of business was: Director’s Report: Status report and updates. a.) Discussion of impact of COVID-19 crisis on Ethics Commission operations and staffing Executive Director Gramitt stated that the temporary changes in daily office operations and procedures in response to COVID-19 remain in place and most of the office staff is teleworking with a small number working in the office. b.) Complaints and investigations pending There are five complaints pending. Executive Director Gramitt informed that an adjudication has been noticed for March 2, 2021 and it will likely last the entire morning. c.) Advisory opinions pending There are 13 advisory opinions pending, with one noticed on today’s meeting agenda. d.) Access to Public Records Act requests since last meeting There were three APRA requests received since the last meeting, all of which were granted within one business day. Executive Director Gramitt informed that the staff has also provided responses to background check inquiries with respect to two recent vacant magistrate positions. e.) Financial Disclosure, update on 2019 and 2020 filing years Online filing of the 2020 Financial Statement is now underway on the Commission’s website. The staff is receiving lists of required filers from the municipal clerks. Letters to all required filers will be mailed in March of this year and the filing deadline is the last Friday in April. Executive Director Gramitt informed that Education Coordinator Radiches has been providing online ethics training through Zoom. He stated that the House of Representatives will receive training tomorrow and a training for the Senate is being scheduled. In response to Chair Quinn, Executive Director Gramitt stated that he will reach out to the new Governor’s team regarding ethics training after Mr. McKee is sworn into office. The next order of business was that of: Advisory Opinions. The advisory opinion was based on a draft advisory opinion prepared by Commission Staff for review by the Commission and was scheduled as an item on the Open Session Agenda for this date. The advisory opinionwas that of: Rita A. Kenahan, RN, EdD, a member of the Little Compton School Committee, requests an advisory opinion regarding whether the Code of Ethics prohibits her from temporarily working part-time as a nurse at the Wilbur McMahon School in Little Compton to assist with the testing of students, faculty, and staff for COVID-19. Staff Attorney Radiches presented the Commission Staff recommendation. The Petitioner was not present Staff Attorney Radiches informed that the Petitioner could not attend but consented to the Commission proceeding in her absence. Commissioner Murphy stated that he would be more sympathetic to the School’s situation if it had posted a position, but he agreed that the advisory opinion’s logic was sound. In response to Commissioner Murphy, Staff Attorney Radiches stated that she will inform the Petitioner that if circumstances change, such as if the School still has no one to assist with testing after advertising for help, the Petitioner is encouraged to seek further guidance from the Commission. In response to Commissioner Palumbo, Staff Attorney Radiches informed that the School has two substitute nurses who require advance notice to assist with COVID-19 testing, and the School has not posted any formal advertisement seeking nurses. She stated that the School has represented that candidates to assist with testing are not required to be nurses. In response to Commissioner Murphy, Staff Attorney Radiches stated that, thus far, the School has been able to test all students and staff every Thursday. Upon motion made by Commissioner Murphy and duly seconded by Commissioner Antone, it was unanimously VOTED: To issue an advisory opinion, attached hereto, to Rita A. Kenahan, RN, EdD, a member of the Little Compton School Committee. The next order of business was: Discussion and potential voting regarding extension of changes to Financial Disclosure procedures in light of COVID-19, including: a.) Waiver of notary requirement for paper filers; b.) Allowing scanned and emailed paper filings. Executive Director Gramitt explained that in April 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission addressed these two issues with respect to financial disclosure. He stated that the Commission voted to waive the notary requirement for 2019 filings. He noted that the Commission staff has normally provided notary services to filers, but that service has been suspended during the pandemic. Executive Director Gramitt stated that waiver of the notary requirement has no impact on the Commission’s enforcement powers with respect to financial disclosure. He recommended that the Commission continue to waive the notary requirement for the 2020 Financial Statement, as well as any prior statements. Executive Director Gramitt next explained that the Commission voted in April 2020 to accept scanned and emailed/faxed filings for 2019 and not require hard-copy paper filings bearing original signatures. He noted that fewer people are filing by paper. He further noted that the Commission automatically extended the deadline for 2019 filings by 30 days but stated that it is premature to discuss an extension to this year’s filing deadline. Executive Director Gramitt informed that neither the Commission’s waiver of the notary requirement nor its acceptance of emailed/faxed filings for 2019 created any issues or problems. Commissioner Murphy questioned whether notarization was necessary and noted that it is not required of online filers. Chair Quinn suggested that the issue could be a topic for future discussion. Executive Director Gramitt explained that financial statements must be signed under oath pursuant to statute, but the Commission could decide not to enforce the requirement against those whose signatures are not notarized. In response to Commissioner Antone, Executive Director Gramitt stated that the Commission could consider making online filing mandatory. However, he noted that there are persons who continue to file by paper and do not want to file online or do not have access to a computer. Upon motion made by Commissioner Murphy and duly seconded by Commissioner Antone, it was unanimously VOTED: To waive the notary requirement for financial statements filed during calendar year 2021. Upon further motion made by Commissioner Antone and duly seconded by Commissioner Corrente, it was unanimously VOTED: To permit the acceptance of scanned and electronically delivered financial statements for filing during calendar year 2021. The next order of business was: New Business proposed for future Commission agendas and general comments from the Commission. There was none. At 9:32 a.m., upon motion made by Commissioner Murphy and duly seconded by Commissioner Antone, it was unanimously VOTED: To go into Executive Session, to wit: a.) Motion to approve minutes of Executive Session held on January 12, 2021, pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-46-5(a)(2) & (4). b.) In re: James H. Brady, Jr., Complaint No. 2020-3, pursuant to R.I. General Laws § 42-46-5(a)(2) & (4). c.) Motion to return to Open Session. At 10:45 a.m., the Commission reconvened in Open Session. Commissioner Murphy was not present. The next order of business was: Report on actions taken in Executive Session. Chair Quinn reported that the Commission took the following actions in Executive Session, which information will also be available on the Commission’s website: 1. Voted (6-0) to approve the minutes of the Executive Session held on January 12, 2021. [Reporter’s Note: The vote was as follows: AYES: Marisa A. Quinn; M. Therese Antone; Arianne Corrente; Timothy Murphy; Kyle P. Palumbo; and Emili B. Vaziri. ABSTENTION: J. Douglas Bennett.] 2. Unanimously voted (7-0) in the matter of In re: James H. Brady, Jr., Complaint No. 2020-3, to approve the Informal Resolution & Settlement and impose a civil penalty of $1,250. Chair Quinn noted that the Informal Resolution & Settlement and the Investigative Report are now public documents. 3. Unanimously voted (7-0) to return to Open Session. The final order of business was: Motion to seal minutes of Executive Session held on January 26, 2021. Upon motion made by Commissioner Bennett and duly seconded by Commissioner Corrente, it was unanimously VOTED: To seal the minutes of the Executive Session held on January 26, 2021. At 10:47 a.m., upon motion made by Commissioner Antone and duly seconded by Commissioner Palumbo, it was unanimously VOTED: To adjourn the meeting. Respectfully submitted, _____________________________ Kyle P. Palumbo Secretary  On March 9, 2020, Governor Gina Raimondo declared a state of emergency due to the dangers to health and life posed by COVID-19. In furtherance thereof, the Governor issued Executive Order 20-46 on June 12, 2020, which, in part, relieved public bodies from the prohibitions regarding the use of telephonic or electronic communication to conduct meetings set forth under the Rhode Island Open Meetings Act. Pursuant to the issuance of Executive Order 21-01, on January 6, 2021, said relief was extended through February 4, 2021.