Advisory Opinion No. 96-27

Re: Joseph A. Lamagna, Esq.


The appointed Chairperson of the Cumberland Housing Authority who is also an attorney in private practice requests an advisory opinion as to whether he may represent an employee of an outside vendor in an unrelated personal injury action.


The Chairperson of the Cumberland Housing Authority who is also an attorney engaged in the practice of law may represent an outside vendor's employee in a personal injury action. This opinion is based on representations by the Chairperson of the Cumberland Housing Authority that (a) the personal injury action does not involve the Housing Authority as it concerns a motor vehicle accident on Aquidneck Island and (b) the outside vendor should complete it's contract with the Housing Authority prior to May 1, 1996.

Under the Code of Ethics, the petitioner may not engage in any business or professional activity which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties or employment in the public interest See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(a). The petitioner is also prohibited from using his position or confidential information received through his position to obtain financial gain for himself or for any business by which he is employed. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(d). Additionally, pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(b), the petitioner may not accept other employment which will either impair his independence of judgment as to his official duties or require him, or induce him, to disclose confidential information acquired by him in the course of his official duties.

The Chairperson's representation of the vendor's employee in a personal injury action is permitted under the Code of Ethics since the Chairperson's activities as a private attorney for the vendor's employee neither involve nor would they impact upon his activities as Chairperson of the Cumberland Housing Authority. Also, there is no indication that the petitioner used his public position in order to garner the representation of the vendor's employee; the fact that the employee sought the petitioner's services was in no way related to the vendor's relationship with the Housing Authority. (See R.I. Gen. Laws §§36-14-5, 36-14-7)

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private employment