Advisory Opinion No. 96-113

Re: Kathleen Bazinet


The petitioner, a Bristol Town Councilor, a municipal elected position, requests an advisory opinion as to whether there are any impermissible conflicts given that she may serve on the Joint Finance Committee for the Bristol/Warren Regional School District and that her spouse is employed by the maintenance staff of the school district.


It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the petitioner, a Bristol Town Councilor, a municipal elected position, does not have an inherent conflict of interest by virtue of her public position and her spouse's employment with the Bristol/Warren Regional School District.

However, the petitioner, as Town Councilor or member of the Joint Finance Committee for the School District, may not participate in matters specifically related to her spouse. This is based on Sections 5(a) & 7(a) of the Code of Ethics which provide that a public official or employee shall not have any interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect, or engage in any employment or transaction which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his or her duties in the public interest. A substantial conflict of interest would occur if the petitioner had reason to believe or expect that she or any family member or business associate, or any business by which she is employed, would derive a direct monetary gain or suffer a direct monetary loss by reason of her official activity. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 36-14-5(a), 7(a). Also, she may not use her office for financial gain for herself or any member of her immediate family. R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(d). Additionally, as discussed in General Commission Advisory No. 1, these Code provisions prohibit participation by one family member in personnel decisions regarding another. As such, the petitioner should file a recusal in accordance with R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-6 in decisions regarding her spouse.

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family: public employment