Advisory Opinion No. 96-21

Re: John T. Gannon, Esq.


The Pawtucket City Solicitor requests an advisory opinion as to whether and how the municipality's Mayor and City Council may vote on salary increases for their offices, particularly if running unopposed for re-election.


In its General Advisory No. 6, issued in April 1989, the Commission provided guidance on salary raises for public officials. The Commission concluded that a public official who takes action on salary or other compensation issues benefits himself or herself directly and a probable violation occurs. A violation also occurs when an elected board's members, who ran for re-election, vote after the election for a salary increase but before new members are sworn in. A direct benefit also occurs for those members seeking re-election unopposed when votes are taken after candidacy declarations have been filed. Any such member would be certain that the salary increase would inure to him or her, and "would thus have reason to expect that he or she would derive a direct monetary gain by reason of his or her official activity."

Given that the City Council was unable to vote on a salary increase prior the last election due to the unavailability of members to vote based on conflicts described above, the City Council and Mayor have an option. The City Council and Mayor may vote on salary increases taking effect in a subsequent term provided that the vote is taken before candidacy declarations are filed for the next election. During this time period, a public official may not know if he or she will seek re-election or if another candidate may file a declaration for his or her seat. Thus, a member cannot reasonably expect to receive a financial gain and no violation of the Code would result.

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Related Advisory Opinions: