Advisory Opinion No. 96-120


Re: Rick Harrison


The Executive Board of the Pawtuxet River Authority requests an advisory opinion as to whether they may serve simultaneously as elected members of local school committees or local party committees in light of R.I. Gen. Laws 46-24-6 which states that "[n]o person holding elective office in the participating communities...shall be eligible to be a member of the [Pawtuxet River A]uthority."


It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission, that it cannot opine on the present statutory provisions as it is outside of the Commission's constitutional or statutory jurisdiction. The Code of Ethics, which first became law in 1978 as the Conflict of Interest Code, contains no prohibition against dual office holding. The Code of Ethics consists of statutes passed by the General Assembly and regulations promulgated by the Ethics Commission, the successor agency to the original Conflict of Interest Commission. By virtue of the adoption of Sections 7 and 8 of Article III of the Rhode Island Constitution in 1987 the Ethics Commission was granted concurrent authority with the General Assembly to enact substantive provisions relating to conflicts of interest, confidential information, use of position, contracts with government agencies and financial disclosure.

With respect to the Pawtuxet River Authority the General Assembly, in 1972, enacted a provision (R.I. Gen. Laws 46-24-6) prohibiting persons "holding elective office in the participating communities [of the Authority] or the general assembly of the state of Rhode Island" from serving as members of the Authority. The law does not define the scope of "elective office," nor is there specific legislative history to determine the underlying rationale for the provision, although presumably conflict of interest concerns were involved. No statutory enactments by the General Assembly since 1972 and no regulations promulgated by the Ethics Commission pursuant to its constitutional authority either directly or indirectly address the Pawtuxet River Authority; most important, no provisions contradict or contravene the legislation passed in 1972 and set out in R.I. Gen. Laws 46-24-6.

The Ethics Commission, other than determining that no substantive provisions of the Code of Ethics contradict or contravene R.I. Gen. Laws 46-24-6, may not opine as to the requirements and/or statutory interpretation of that provision in that the statutory provision at issue does not fall within its grant of constitutional or statutory jurisdiction.

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