Advisory Opinion No. 96-18

Re: Edward F. Sanderson


An employee of the state Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission requests an advisory opinion as to whether he may receive appointment from his local town council to serve as a member of the town's historic district commission.


In General Commission Advisory No. 8 the Ethics Commission recognized that particular types of expertise are critical to the proper functioning of historic district commissions. The advisory opinion request here points out that the type of expertise possessed by the employee of the state Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission is not widely available in all Rhode Island communities. The employee's expertise is an important reason why his local commission wishes to consider him for an appointment. The state commission proposes neutralizing potential conflicts that might arise between the employee's state and local responsibilities by requiring that the employee avoid participation in any matters (e.g., grant applications) in his state capacity that might affect the employee's town and/or its historic district commission.

The solution proposed by the Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission meets the requirements of the Code of Ethics. See R.I. Gen. Laws 36-14-5(a), (b), (d) and (e)(2). This Commission notes, however, and both the employee and the state Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission should be aware, that Commission Regulation does not allow recusals that become so frequent as to give rise to an appearance of impropriety. See Commission Regulation 5003.

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dual public roles