Advisory Opinion No. 2000-22

Re: Richard J. DelFino, Jr.

QUESTION PRESENTED

The petitioner, a Deputy Compact Administrator within the Department of Corrections, a state employee position, who also serves as a Johnston School Committee member, a municipal elected position, requests an advisory opinion as to whether he may run for and serve in the Rhode Island House of Representatives, a state elected position.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the Code of Ethics does not prohibit the petitioner, a Deputy Compact Administrator within the Department of Corrections, a state employee position, who also serves as a Johnston School Committee member, a municipal elected position, from seeking elective office for the General Assembly while serving as a School Committee member or as a state employee since the respective positions are separate and independent of each other. However, the petitioner, if elected to public office, is cautioned and advised that in the event matters come before him that directly affect the Johnston School Committee or the Department of Corrections at the General Assembly, he should recuse himself from participation in accordance with Section 6 of the Code of Ethics, by filing a recusal statement and sending a copy to the Ethics Commission.

Sections 5(a) and 5(d) of the Code of Ethics do not create an absolute bar to simultaneous service as a state employee or School Committee member and a General Assembly member. See R.I. Gen Laws § 36-14-5(a), 5(d). Rather, those provisions require a matter by matter evaluation and determination as to whether substantial conflicts of interest exist with respect to carrying out an official's or employee's duty in the public interest. The petitioner is advised, for instance, that he would not be able to participate as a General Assembly member in any matters directly affecting the Johnston School Committee or Department of Corrections. In sum, while simultaneous service in the positions is not barred by the Code of Ethics, the relevant statute and regulations would require that the petitioner be particularly vigilant as to the matters in which he participated. We caution the petitioner that Regulation 5007 would prohibit him, if elected to the General Assembly, from seeking state employment as an employee or consultant (other than the position that he holds at the time of election), while he is a member of the General Assembly and for a period of one year after leaving legislative office.

Finally, the petitioner is advised that this opinion solely addresses whether the Code of Ethics (R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-1 et. seq. and regulations) prohibits him, as a classified state employee and elected municipal official, from seeking or holding office as a General Assembly member. We note that this opinion does not address whether the Johnston Charter or any other statutes, rulings or policies, specifically from the State Board of Elections (such as R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-4-51 which states that “no classified employee or member of the personnel appeal board shall seek the nomination of or be a candidate for any elective state office…”)or the Attorney General's Office, prohibits such simultaneous service. It is incumbent upon the petitioner to seek out guidance from these agencies since other provisions that are not part of the Code of Ethics are outside the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission and, as a result, cannot be addressed in this advisory opinion.

Code Citations:

36-14-5(a)
36-14-5(d)
36-14-5(e)
36-14-5007

Related Advisory Opinions:

98-104
98-21
97-23
95-85
95-38

Keywords:

Candidate
Dual public roles