Advisory Opinion No. 96-106

Re: James E. Capaldi, P.E.


The petitioner, Chief Engineer for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation ("DOT"), a state employee, requests an advisory opinion as to whether any impermissible conflicts exist in his position given that he formerly was engaged in private employment with an engineering firm which had transportation contracts with the DOT given that the engineering firm and its DOT contracts were acquired by another company during bankruptcy and that as Chief Engineer the petitioner must recommend engineering options relative to the disposition of the contracts.


It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the petitioner, Chief Engineer for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation ("DOT"), a state employee, may participate in discussions and recommendations as to the contracts acquired by CECI, LLC. The petitioner's previous private employment was as a Senior Vice President of Operations for an engineering company which primarily included administrative duties. The engineering company had contracts with DOT, but during the company's bankruptcy, the contracts were bought by another company. DOT must now determine the disposition of these contracts which includes financial as well as engineering considerations. The petitioner, as the Chief Engineer, may be requested to advise the Department as to these contracts. Given that the petitioner does not have any expectation of private financial gain or loss by reason of DOT's actions on the outstanding contracts, he does not have a substantial conflict with his duties in the public interest. R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(a), 7(a). Additionally, the petitioner's previous private employment does not raise any issues as to his independence of judgment given that the private employment occurred more than seven years ago with a different company and did not directly relate to the issues now before him.

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