Advisory Opinion No. 97-33

Re: Carol Hall-Walker


A Department of Health employee who works as a Field Director for Project Assist, a tobacco control program, requests an advisory opinion as to whether she may accept an award from the Rhode Island Pharmacists Association given that the Association receives funding from the Department of Health to perform services related to Project Assist.


It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the petitioner, a Field Director for the Department of Health's Project Assist, a tobacco control program may accept an award from the Rhode Island Pharmacists Association. She does not participate in the allocation of funds by Project Assist; rather, she executes funding allocation decisions made by a community based committee and senior policy staff at the Department of Health. The Rhode Island Pharmacists Association, which receives funding through Project Assist, has selected the petitioner as the 1997 recipient of its Charles Hackadorian, Jr. Award, presented annually to individuals outside of the pharmacy profession who have recognized and supported the efforts that the pharmacy profession has made to health care.

Nothing in the Code of Ethics bars the petitioner from accepting this award. There is no indication that the award is based on any understanding or prior action by the petitioner that favored the interests of the Association. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(g). Further, while the nature of the petitioner's public duties are such that it is unlikely she would be making decisions having a direct financial impact on the Association, the fact that she had received an award from the Association would not prohibit her future participation in such decisions. The receipt of the award does not create any sort of business relationship between the petitioner and the Association nor does it create a financial relationship giving rise to a substantial conflict of interest as defined in the Code of Ethics. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(a)(d).

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