Advisory Opinion No. 2000-7

Re: William D. Anker, Ph.D.

QUESTION PRESENTED

The petitioner, the Director of the Department of Transportation, a state appointed position, who also serves as a member of the Rhode Public Transit Authority and the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, requests an advisory opinion as to whether he may accept an invitation to an open house for a law firm given that the law firm is legal counsel to both the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the petitioner, the Director of the Department of Transportation, a state appointed position, who also serves as a member of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority and the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, may accept an invitation to an open house for a law firm that is legal counsel to both the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority provided that either he pays for the value of the event or the State determines that his attendance at the function is an integral part of his public duties with regard to the law firm and, therefore, pays for the value of the event from State funds.

Commission Regulation 36-14-5009 provides that no person subject to the Code of Ethics shall accept a gift from an “interested person.” The regulation defines “interested person” as an individual or business entity “that has a direct financial interest in a decision that the person subject to the Code of Ethics is authorized to make, or to participate in the making of, as part of his or her official duties.” Tillinghast Licht & Semonoff is an “interested person” as defined in Regulation 5009 in that it has a direct financial interest in decisions that the petitioner, as a member of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority and the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority may participate in the making of, as part of his official duties. Therefore, the petitioner may accept an invitation to an open house for a law firm that is legal counsel to both the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority provided that either he pays for the value of the event or the State determines that his attendance at the function is an integral part of his public duties with regard to the law firm and, therefore, pays for the value of the event from State funds.

Code Citations:

36-14-5009

Related Advisory Opinions:

98-100
97-121

Keywords:

Gifts