Advisory Opinion No. 2001-3

Re: David Pasquariello


The Pawtucket City Solicitor requests an advisory opinion on behalf of the petitioner, a Pawtucket Water Supply Board member, a municipal appointed position, as to whether the Pawtucket School Department’s recent hiring of him as a teacher, a municipal employee position, presents a conflict of interest.


It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that Pawtucket School Department’s recent hiring of the petitioner, a Pawtucket Water Supply Board member, a municipal appointed position, does not create an inherent conflict of interest under the Code of Ethics.

Under the Code of Ethics, a public official or employee may not use his position, other than as provided by law, to benefit himself, and may not participate in any matter in which he has an interest in substantial conflict with his public duties. A substantial conflict of interest exists if, for example, an official has reason to believe or expect that he or an employer will derive a direct monetary gain or loss by reason of his official activity. See R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 36-14-5(a), 36-14-7(a). Also, R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(b) prohibits a public official or employee from accepting other employment that will either impair his independence of judgment as to his official duties or employment or require him to disclose confidential information acquired by him in the course of his official duties. Finally, R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(d) provides that a public official may not use his or her office for pecuniary gain, other than provided by law, for him(her)self, family, employer, business associate, or a business that he/she represents.

Sections 5(a) and 5(d) of the Code of Ethics do not create an absolute bar to simultaneous service as, for instance, a Pawtucket Water Supply Board member and as a school teacher in the same municipality. 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 or employee's duties and responsibilities in the public interest. Here, it is not likely that the petitioner's involvement with the Water Supply Board would impact on his responsibilities with the School Department, or vice versa, given the different spheres of responsibilities that fall to the respective agencies. In the event that such matters would arise, however, the petitioner is required to recuse from participation and vote. Notice of recusal should be filed with the City of Pawtucket and the Ethics Commission in accordance with R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-6.

Finally, the petitioner is advised that this opinion solely addresses whether the Code of Ethics prohibits him, as a municipal appointed official, from seeking or holding other municipal employment. This opinion does not, and cannot, address whether the City of Pawtucket Charter or any other statutes, rulings or policies prohibits such simultaneous service. The Ethics Commission does not exercise jurisdiction over those statutes and therefore is not empowered to issue advisory opinions addressing or interpreting their effect.

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Dual public roles