Advisory Opinion No. 97-25

Re: John H. Woodhouse, Jr.


The Petitioner, Chief of the Office of Communications, Rhode Island Department of Transportation, a state employee position, requests an advisory opinion as to whether he may accept post-state service employment at firms that he may have worked with during his employment with the State, including firms for which he selected state contracts and those he worked with and/or administered during the course of the contracts; and, if the Petitioner may accept such employment, what restrictions, if any, would be placed on him regarding current or future projects for the State and/or the Department of Transportation.


It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission, that the Petitioner, Chief of the Office of Communications, Department of Transportation, a state employee position, may accept employment at firms that he had contact with at the Department of Transportation. A public official may not, however, accept any reward or promise of future employment in return for or based on any understanding or expectation that his or her vote, official action or judgment would be influenced thereby. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(g). While the Petitioner may accept such post-state service employment, he may not appear before the Department of Transportation except as to ministerial matters during the one year following his departure from the Department. Also, he may not use confidential information obtained while working at the Department for private financial gain.

The Code of Ethics prohibits a public official from representing himself or another person before a state agency by which he or she was employed for a period of one after he or she has officially severed his or her employment relationship with the state agency. R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(e)(1) & (e)(4). The Petitioner represents that the area of potential private employment at issue here might include public relations and advertising firms that may have contracts with the State and with whom he may have participated in selecting for contracts or worked with after contracts had been awarded. The Commission has previously concluded that a former state employee could not appear before her agency within one year except as to ministerial efforts such as submission of materials for approval and routine follow-ups. This reasoning also applies here.

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