Advisory Opinion No. 97-10

 

Re: David Crook

QUESTION PRESENTED

The Narragansett Town Solicitor requests on behalf of the Petitioner, a Narragansett Town Councilor, a municipal elected position, an opinion as to 1) whether there are any impermissible conflicts given that his spouse serves as a member of the Personnel Appeal Board and 2) whether he may vote on issues that his spouse speaks about at a Town Council meeting.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the Petitioner, a Narragansett Town Councilor, a municipal elected position, does not have an inherent conflict of interest by virtue of his spouse's position as Personnel Appeal Board member. The Petitioner did not participate in his spouse's appointment. Obviously, however, he may not participate in any matters as a member of the Council that would have a direct impact on his spouse's position, including anything relating to possible reappointment.

Additionally, under the Code of Ethics, the Petitioner or his spouse may speak as private citizens at meetings pursuant to the public forum exception recognized in the Code of Ethics. Commission Regulation 36-14-7003. The fact that the Petitioner's spouse speaks on a matter does not in and of itself preclude the Petitioner from participating in discussions or votes on the matter. Of course, if the matter or issue would particularly affect the Petitioner or his family, he may have a substantial conflict of interest requiring recusal. However, absent a conflict of interest that otherwise falls within the activities prohibited under the Code of Ethics, the Petitioner may participate and/or vote on matters that his spouse speaks to at a Town Council meeting.

Code Citations:

36-14-5(a)
36-14-7(a)
36-14-7003

Related Advisory Opinions:

96-108
96-45
96-23
95-100
94-56

Keywords:

family: public employment
nepotism
public forum exception