Advisory Opinion No. 2000-26

Re: Dorothy C. Berube

QUESTION PRESENTED

The petitioner, a Coventry Town Councilor, a municipal elected official, requests an advisory opinion as to whether she may accept free or reduced rate web services from a local vendor to design and implement a web site for her as a Town Councilor.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the petitioner, a Coventry Town Councilor, a municipal elected official, may accept free or reduced web services from the CoventryRI.Com provided that it is not an “interested person” for purposes of the Code of Ethics.

Commission Regulation 36-14-5009, which became effective on July 1, 1998, provides that no person subject to the Code of Ethics shall accept a gift from an “interested person,” with only a few exceptions. The regulation narrowly 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.”

If CoventryRI.com does not presently have any business before the Town Council and is not expected to have business with the Town Council, it is not an “interested person” as provided by the regulation. Assuming this circumstance, the petitioner will not be in a position to make a decision that has a direct financial impact on CoventryRI.com and the gift rule does not apply. As such, the gift of free or reduced rate web services would not violate the Code of Ethics.

Code Citations:

36-14-5009

Related Advisory Opinions:

99-121
99-41
99-25
98-114
98-100

Keywords:

Gifts