Advisory Opinion No. 2000-4

Re: Dr. Rosendo Evora Brito

QUESTION PRESENTED

The petitioner, the Executive Director of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, requests an advisory opinion as to whether a Council Board member, a state appointed position, may accept appointment as the State Poet, a position managed and administered by the Council.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that a State Council on the Arts Board member, a state appointed position, may not accept appointment as the State Poet, a position managed and administered by the Council. R.I. Gen. Law § 36-14-5(e) prohibits the Board member from appearing before his former Board during the one year period following the expiration of his term of office.

The petitioner advises that the State Arts Council participates in the Governor’s selection of a new State Poet every five years by organizing a selection panel, soliciting nominations and forwarding them, along with samples of the nominees’ work, to the Governor for selection. He represents that $1,000.00 is awarded annually from the Council’s budget as an honorarium for said position. He indicates that a current Council member has been nominated to serve as the State Poet. Finally, he advises that the Council established its own conflict of interest statement in 1995 which provides, inter alia, “Board members should avoid any action which could be interpreted as a use of board membership to further their own interests or those of any organization with which they are affiliated.”

The Code of Ethics provides that, for a period of one year after a person has officially terminated his or her position with any state or municipal agency, that person shall not appear before the state or municipal agency on which the person had served. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 36-14-5(e)(1) and 5(e)(4). Pursuant to Commission Regulation 5006, no elected or appointed official may accept any appointment by the body of which he or she is a member, to any position which carries with it any financial benefit or remuneration while a member of the body and for a period of one year after termination of membership on said body, unless the Ethics Commission shall give its approval of such appointment. Regulation 5006 further provides that the Commission shall not grant such approval unless it “is satisfied that denial of such employment or position would create a substantial hardship for the body, board, or municipality.”

The Commission has concluded that a public official may not apply, interview or accept employment from the body which he or she serves, for a period of one year following termination of the official’s membership on said body. See A.O. 99-60, A.O. 97-26; A.O. 97-17; and A.O. 96-85. Without a showing of hardship to the governmental body, rather than the former public official or employee, the official may not accept appointment from his own Board to a position which carries with it remuneration of any kind nor may he appear before the Board during that time as provided in R.I. Gen. Law § 36-14-5(e) and Commission Regulation 5006.

The Commission concludes that a State Arts Council Board member may not accept appointment to the position of State Poet. Such an appointment, in and of itself, would not run afoul of Regulation 5006 since the Governor, and not the Council, is the appointing authority for that position.

However, the position carries with it an honorarium that is funded annually through the Council’s budget, and the Council has responsibility for selecting the nominees and making recommendations for appointment.

Further, Section 5(e) of the Code prohibits the Council Board member from appearing before the Council for a period of one year following his official severance from his position on the Board. Here, the position of State Poet is managed and administered by the Council itself. Without a showing of hardship, the Board member may not appear before the Council during that time as provided in R.I. Gen. Law § 36-14-5(e). Finally, although not covered by the Code of Ethics, it would appear that his acceptance of the position would violate the Council’s own conflict of interest statement.

Code Citations:

36-14-5(e)
36-14-5006

Related Advisory Opinions:

99-151
99-94
99-76
99-60
98-153
98-104
98-83
97-26
97-17
96-102
96-85
96-82
96-80
94-37

Keywords:

Appointing authority
Revolving door