Advisory Opinion No. 2001-43

Re: Walter R. Moon, Ph.D.


The petitioner, a Lincoln Personnel Board member, a municipal appointed position, requests an advisory opinion as to whether he may simultaneously serve as a State Justice of the Peace, a state appointed position.


It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the petitioner, a Lincoln Personnel Board member, a municipal appointed position, may simultaneously serve as a State Justice of the Peace, a state appointed position, without running afoul of the Code of Ethics.

Under the Code of Ethics, the petitioner may not participate in any matter in which he has an interest, financial or otherwise, which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties in the public interest. See R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 36-14-5(a), 36-14-7(a). A public official will have an interest in substantial conflict with his or her official duties if it is likely that a “direct monetary gain” or a “direct monetary loss” will accrue, by virtue of the public official’s activity, to the official, a family member, or a business associate. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-7(a). R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(b) provides that the petitioner may not accept other employment which would impair his independence of judgement or require him to disclose confidential information acquired in the course of his official duties. Finally, the Code prohibits the petitioner from using his public position or confidential information received through his position to obtain financial gain, other than that provided by law, for himself, a family member, or business associate. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(d).

Sections 5(a) and 5(d) of the Code of Ethics do not create an absolute bar to simultaneous service as a Lincoln Personnel Board member and a State Justice of the Peace. 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 duty in the public interest. Here, the Commission concludes that the petitioner’s simultaneous service in both positions does not present an inherent conflict of interest under the Code of Ethics. It is unlikely that the petitioner’s involvement with the Personnel Board would impact on his responsibilities as a Justice of the Peace, and vice versa, given the different spheres of responsibilities that fall to those respective positions. 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 Town of Lincoln 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 from simultaneously holding his respective positions. This opinion does not, and cannot, address whether the Lincoln Town Charter or any other statutes, rulings or policies, specifically from the State Board of Elections or the Attorney General's Office, prohibit 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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Code jurisdiction

Dual public roles