Advisory Opinion No. 2002-32

Re: Larry Anderson

QUESTION PRESENTED

The petitioner, a Little Compton Budget Committee member, a municipal elected position, requests an advisory opinion as to whether he is subject to the provisions of the Code of Ethics, including the financial disclosure requirement.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the petitioner, a Little Compton Budget Committee member, a municipal elected position, is subject to the provisions of the Code of Ethics, R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-1, et seq.. Further, as a municipal elected official, the petitioner is required to file annual Financial Disclosure Statements with the Commission pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-16.

Pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-4(1), state and municipal elected officials are subject to the provisions of the Code of Ethics in government. The Code defines a “state or municipal elected official” as any person holding any elective public office pursuant to a general or special election. R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-2(10). Commission Regulation 36-14-2002 further defines a “state or municipal elected official” as any person holding any elective public office pursuant to a general or special election. Finally, Regulation 36-14-2(1) defines a “state or municipal elected official” as any person duly elected to or holding any elective public office pursuant to a general or special election. In accordance with R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-16, all state and municipal elected officials are required to file on or before the last Friday in April of each year a financial statement provided by the Ethics Commission.

The petitioner was elected to his position on the Little Compton Budget Committee at the annual Financial Town Meeting in accordance with the provisions of the Little Compton Home Rule Charter, Section 204 and 502. He is one of five Budget Committee members elected biennially at the Financial Town Meeting by the qualified electorate and serves a two-year term of office. The Budget Committee has primary responsibility for the evaluation of all requests for appropriation by the Financial Town Meeting or by any special Town Meeting, and for presenting a proposed budget to the Annual Financial Town Meeting. Accordingly, the petitioner is a “state or municipal elected official” consistent with the definitions set forth above and, as such, is subject to the provisions of the Code of Ethics. As a municipal elected official, he further is subject to the financial disclosure requirements set forth in R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-16.

The petitioner further requests that the Commission reconciles the instant matter with prior advisory opinions in which it concluded that certain municipal appointed bodies are exempt from the Code’s jurisdiction. E.g., A.O. 2001-23 (finding that a Warwick Affirmative Action Commission member is not required to file a financial disclosure statement since that Commission acts in a purely advisory capacity and, therefore, is not a “state or municipal agency” for purposes of the Code); A.O. 2000-48 (concluding that a Warwick Harbor Management Commission member is subject to the Code and its financial disclosure mandate as a municipal appointed official where, in addition to its policymaking role in making recommendations, the Commission also serves as an appellate body affecting the rights of persons aggrieved by decisions of the Department of Parks and Recreation and the harbormaster); A.O. 2000-37 (finding a Town of Warren Harbor Management Commission member is required to file a personal financial disclosure statement since, in addition to its policymaking role in making recommendations to the Town Council, the Commission also serves as an appellate body, affecting the rights of persons aggrieved by decisions of the harbormaster or staff). Also A.O. 2000-15; 2000-14; 2000-13 (concluding that the Town of Little Compton Harbor Commission is not a "municipal agency" as that term is defined in the Code of Ethics and members need not abide by the statutory and regulatory provisions of the Code of Ethics in carrying out their public duties and responsibilities).

In Advisory Opinion 2000-7, the Commission opined that the petitioner need not abide by the statutory and regulatory provisions of the Code of Ethics in carrying out his public duties and responsibilities as a member of Little Compton's Charter Review Commission. There, it determined that the Charter Review Commission is not a "municipal agency," as that term is defined in the Code of Ethics, because its powers are purely advisory in nature. The Commission acknowledges that in previous opinions it has exempted from the Code’s jurisdiction those municipal appointed officials whose public bodies perform “advisory” or “purely advisory” functions. However, in the instant matter, the Budget Committee exercises governmental functions other than in an advisory or purely advisory manner and, therefore, is subject to the Code’s jurisdiction.

The Commission concludes that the petitioner is subject to the provisions of the Code of Ethics, and its financial disclosure mandate, as an elected member of the Little Compton Budget Committee. It declines to revisit his arguments regarding municipal bodies that perform “advisory” and “purely advisory” functions at this juncture, having properly dealt with the issue in the context of Advisory Opinion 2000-7.

Code Citations:

36-14-(2)(10)
36-14-4(1)
Regulation 2(1)
Regulation 2002(1)
36-14-16

Related Advisory Opinions:

2001-38
2001-23
2000-70
2000-55
2000-48
2000-47
2000-44
2000-37
2000-36
2000-31
2000-15
2000-14
2000-13
99-87
99-66
97-69
97-68
97-60

Keywords:

Advisory body
Code jurisdiction
Financial disclosure