Advisory Opinion No. 2002-57

Re: Gary Grenier

QUESTION PRESENTED

The petitioner, the Cumberland Fire District Moderator, a regional elected position, requests an advisory opinion as to whether he may seek and accept employment as a District firefighter, a regional employee position.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that Code of Ethics does not prohibit the petitioner, the Cumberland Fire District Moderator, a regional elected position, from seeking and accepting employment as a District firefighter.

At the Cumberland Fire District’s June 2002 meeting, the taxpayers elected the petitioner to the position of District Moderator. He represents that the Moderator’s sole duty, for which he receives a $100 stipend, is to run the annual District meeting in an orderly and organized manner. He advises that the Moderator has no discretionary authority, does not set the agenda and has no voting power. The Moderator is not required to attend monthly meetings and is not authorized to be present during executive sessions. The petitioner indicates that the taxpayers authorized the hiring of two full-time firefighters at the annual meeting. He wishes to apply for such employment and inquires whether he must wait one year after resigning as Moderator to receive an appointment from the Board. He informs that the Board of Fire Commissioners has authority over hiring, firing, disciplinary matters, and negotiating contracts.

The Code of Ethics provides that the petitioner shall not have any interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect, or engage in any employment, transaction which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties in the public interest. A substantial conflict of interest occurs if the petitioner has reason to believe or expect that he or any family member or business associate, or any business by which he is employed will derive a direct monetary gain or suffer a direct monetary loss by reason of her official activity. See R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 36-14-5(a), 7(a). He may not accept other employment which will either impair his independence of judgment as to his official duties or induce him to disclose confidential information acquired by his in the course of and by reason of his official duties. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(b). He also may not his public position to obtain financial gain, other than that provided by law, for himself, his family or business associates. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(d).

The Code further provides that the petitioner may not represent himself or any other person before any state or municipal agency of which he is a member or by which he is employed. R.I. Gen. Law § 36-14-5(e)(1), (2). Section 36-14-5(e)(4) extends these prohibitions for a period of one year after the petitioner has officially severed his position with the agency. Finally, Commission Regulation 5006 provides that no elected official may accept any appointment by the body of which he is a member to any position which carries with it any financial benefit or remuneration until the expiration of one (1) year after termination of his membership on such body.

The taxpayers of the Cumberland Fire District elected the petitioner to his position as District Moderator. In that capacity, his sole duty is to run the annual District meeting. The Board of Fire Commissioners has hiring authority over the two regional employee positions at issue. Since the petitioner is not a member of the Board of Fire Commissioners, he is not seeking remunerated employment from a board of which he is a member. Accordingly, his hiring by the Board would not trigger the prohibitions contained in Section 5(e) and Regulation 5006 of the Code of Ethics. The Commission concludes that the petitioner may seek and accept full-time employment as a Cumberland Fire District firefighter while simultaneously serving as District Moderator.

Code Citations:

36-14-5(a)
36-14-5(b)
36-14-5(d)
36-14-5(e)
36-14-5006
36-14-7(a)

Related Advisory Opinions:

2002-36
95-19

Keywords:

Dual public roles
Prospective employment