Advisory Opinion No. 2001-64

Re: Consuelo G. Perez


The petitioner, a Woonsocket Board of Canvassers member, a municipal appointed position, requests an advisory opinion as to whether he may manage a mayoral candidate’s campaign while serving on the Board.


It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the petitioner, a Woonsocket Board of Canvassers member, a municipal appointed position, may manage a mayoral candidate’s campaign, subject to certain restrictions. The Code of Ethics requires his recusal from participation and/or vote on any matters relating to or affecting the candidacy of Reverend Turner, other mayoral candidates, and the mayoral election. As a practical matter, those restrictions may necessitate that he decline service as a campaign manager in order to be able to participate in most actions that fall within the jurisdiction of the Board of Canvassers.

Under the Code of Ethics, a public official 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) and 7 (a). An official will have an interest in substantial conflict with his official duties if he has a reason to believe or expect that a “direct monetary gain” or a “direct monetary loss” will accrue, by virtue of the public official's actions, to the official, a family member, a business associate, an employer, or any business which the public official represents. Further, the Code provides that he shall not solicit or accept gifts, loans, campaign contributions, or a promise of future employment based on any understanding that his official action or judgment would thereby be influenced. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(g).

Given that the public responsibilities of the Board of Canvassers include administering an impartial election process, the petitioner should exercise diligence in identifying any actions that he might be asked to take that would involve discretionary authority as to the election process. The Commission concludes that he must recuse himself from participation and/or vote on any matters relating to or affecting the candidacy of Reverend Turner and/or other mayoral candidates. Such participation would constitute a substantial conflict with the discharge of his public duties and/or a use of position for financial gain for a business associate See R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 36-14-5(a), 36-14-7(a), 36-14-5(d). See A.O. 98-122 (concluding that a Scituate Board of Canvassers member may continue to serve on the Board notwithstanding her spouse’s candidacy for the Scituate School Committee, provided that she recuses herself from participation and/or vote on all Board matters relating to or affecting the candidacy of her spouse and/or other School Committee candidates); and 91-62 (holding that the Clerk to the Warwick Board of Canvassers, whose job responsibilities include certification of nomination papers, may not simultaneously serve on the finance committee of a candidate for public office).

If and when matters involving Reverend Turner or other mayoral candidates, and/or the mayoral election in general, come before him in his official capacity, the petitioner should (a) advise the Board, in writing, of the nature of his interest in the matter at issue, and (b) recuse from any participation and/or vote in connection with said matters. Notice of recusal should be filed with both the Board of Canvassers and the Ethics Commission pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws, § 36-14-6. Finally, the petitioner is advised that this opinion only address whether the Code of Ethics prohibits him from managing a Woonsocket mayoral candidate’s campaign while serving on the Board of Canvassers in that municipality. It does not address whether any other statutes, rulings or policies, specifically from the State Board of Elections, prohibit such simultaneous activity.

Code Citations:





Related Advisory Opinions:








Political activity