WHAT IS AN ADVISORY OPINION?
An advisory opinion is a legal interpretation of the Rhode Island Code of Ethics issued by the Ethics Commission which provides specific guidance about a particular and impending circumstance. An advisory opinion is based upon the representations made by, or on behalf of, the person or entity requesting it, and is not the result of adversarial or investigative proceedings.
WHO CAN REQUEST AN ADVISORY OPINION?
A person subject to the Code of Ethics may request an advisory opinion about a particular provision(s) of the Code which may affect him or her. The persons subject to the Code are:
- State and municipal elected officials;
- State and municipal appointed officials; and
- Employees of state and local government, boards, commissions, and agencies.
WHEN SHOULD I REQUEST AN ADVISORY OPINION?
If you believe you may face a real or potential conflict of interest, the time to request an advisory opinion is before you take any official action.
HOW DO I REQUEST AN ADVISORY OPINION?
To request an advisory opinion, you must either mail or hand-deliver to the Commission a letter containing your original signature and the following information:
- your name, official position, and a description of your duties;
- your daytime telephone number and e-mail address;
- briefly, the name, jurisdiction and powers of your agency, commission, or office;
- the nature of the potential conflict;
- a summary of relevant facts; and
- any time constraints.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I SUBMIT MY REQUEST?
The Commission will send you a letter confirming receipt of your request. Sometime prior to the open meeting at which your advisory opinion request will be considered by the Ethics Commission, you will receive a draft recommendation prepared by a staff attorney. A person requesting an advisory opinion is strongly encouraged to attend the meeting at which his or her request will be presented, as the Commissioners may wish to ask questions of the petitioner to clarify any relevant facts. Advisory opinions require an affirmative vote of five of the nine members of the Commission. You will receive a written copy of the advisory opinion, which will also be available for review on the Ethics Commission website. The advisory opinion and your written request are public records.
All advisory opinions rendered by the Ethics Commission, until amended or revoked by a majority of the Commission members, shall be binding on the Commission in any subsequent proceeding concerning the person or entity who requested the opinion and who acted I reliance on it in good faith, unless material facts were omitted or misstated in the request for the opinion.