Advisory Opinion No. 2000-45

Re: Quentin Anthony, Esq.

QUESTION PRESENTED

The petitioner, a former solicitor for the Town of Jamestown, a municipal appointed official, requests an advisory opinion as to whether he may represent himself before the Zoning Board concerning a zoning application for property which abuts his property.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the petitioner, a former solicitor for the Town of Jamestown, may appear before the Jamestown Zoning Board, personally or through counsel, regarding a zoning application for property abutting his residence under the hardship exception to Section 5(e) of the Code of Ethics based upon the fact that the petitioner did not bring the application before the Zoning Board, he has not advised the Zoning Board on this matter as solicitor, and since it impacts his residential property which he has owned since 1981.

The petitioner advises that he is a partner in the law firm of Sheffield & Harvey and that the firm represented the Town of Jamestown and its boards and commissions until approximately July 1999. The petitioner states that there is now pending before the Jamestown Zoning Board an application concerning property abutting his own property. He has owned and resided at this location since 1981. The petitioner seeks to oppose the application, since it, if approved, would depreciate his property value and otherwise affect his enjoyment of his property.

Section 36-14-5(e) of the Code of Ethics prohibits a public official or employee from “representing him or herself” before an agency of which he or she is a member while a member and for one year after the official severance from that position. In cases of hardship, the Ethics Commission may allow exceptions to this blanket prohibition. In previous advisory opinions, the Commission has granted hardship exceptions only in situations where vested property interests in a principal residence or office were involved. See, e.g., A.O. 89-71; A.O. 94-38; A.O. 98-97; GCA 11.

Here, the matter concerns property adjacent to the petitioner’s residence brought before the Zoning Board through no action of his own. Therefore, the Commission finds that the circumstances involving the zoning application fall within the vested property exception to Section 5(e). The petitioner may appear before the Zoning Board, either personally or through counsel, regarding the zoning application based on a finding of hardship pursuant to R.I. Gen Laws § 36-14-5(e).

Code Citations:

36-14-5(a)
36-14-5(d)
36-14-5(e)
36-14-5(e)(1)
36-14-6

Related Advisory Opinions:

99-127
99-124
98-105
98-97
98-94
98-12
97-146
97-85
94-38
94-19
92-68
89-71
GCA 11

Keywords:

Hardship exception
Property interest