Advisory Opinion No. 2000-46

Re: Ensly W. Ramsay

QUESTION PRESENTED

The petitioner, the Superintendent of the Bristol North & East Burying Ground Commission, requests an advisory opinion as to whether he is required to file an annual financial disclosure statement, given that his company is hired as an independent contractor by the Bristol Burying Ground Commission and the Barrington Cemetery Commission.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the petitioner, the Superintendent of the Bristol North & East Burying Ground Commission, is not required to file an annual financial disclosure statement since, as an independent contractor, he is not an employee of state or local government subject to the provisions of the Code of Ethics. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-4.

The petitioner advises that his company, Ramsay’s, Inc., is an independent contractor providing cemetery maintenance services to the Bristol North & East Burying Ground Commission and the Barrington Cemetery Commission. He represents that he is retained by the Bristol North & East Burying Ground Commission and does not receive any of the benefits of an employee. However, the Burying Ground Commission has given the title of “Superintendent” to the independent contractor providing its maintenance services. The petitioner’s company bills the Burying Ground Commission for services rendered on a monthly basis.

The Code of Ethics requires all state and municipal elected and appointed officials to file annual financial statements with the Ethics Commission. R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-16. Members of many Commissions serve as volunteers or are not compensated for their public service; however, the General Assembly has deemed that if an official is appointed by the highest governing body of the state or municipality or for a term of office and exercises governmental functions other than in an advisory nature, the public official is required to file a personal financial statement pursuant to the Code of Ethics. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-2(9). The Code defines state or municipal “employees” as individuals receiving a salary from a state or municipal agency on a full-time or part-time basis. See Commission Regulation 2002(3)(a). Finally, independent contractors of a state or municipal government are neither “employees” nor appointed officials subject to the provisions of the Code of Ethics. See Suzanne Worrell Gemma, et al. v. Rhode Island Ethics Commission (C.A. No. 94-3404, filed Sept. 17, 1994).

Here, the petitioner is neither elected nor appointed to a public position, but serves as an independent contractor. Accordingly, he is not a municipal elected or appointed official within the meaning of R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-4 and is not required to file a financial disclosure statement. See R.I. Gen Laws § 36-14-16. Further, as an independent contractor, the petitioner does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission and is not covered by the conflict of interest provisions contained in the Code of Ethics. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-2.

Code Citations:

36-14-2002(3)(a)
36-14-2(9)
36-14-4
36-14-16

Related Advisory Opinions:

99-43
99-18
98-85
98-49
97-147
97-141

Related Case Law:

Gemma v. R.I. Ethics Commission, (R.I. Sup. Ct., C.A. No. 94-304, filed September 17, 1994)

Keywords:

Code jurisdiction
Financial disclosure