Advisory Opinion No. 98-7

Re: Douglas H. Allen


The Petitioner, a Lincoln Town Councilor, a municipal elected position, requests an advisory opinion as to whether he may participate in matters concerning Amica given that his sister is employed by Amica in Florida.


It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the Petitioner, a Lincoln Town Councilor, a municipal elected position, may participate in matters concerning Amica so long as they do not concern or directly affect his sister. The prohibitions of the Code of Ethics extend to financial relationships involving various family members, including sisters, brothers, and cousins. See Commission Regulation 36-14-5005. The Commission generally has concluded that a public official cannot participate in matters that would directly affect his/her family member given the substantial conflict of interest with his/her duties in the public interest. See A.O. 96-7, A.O. 97-49, A.O. 95-79.

Here, the Petitioner's sister works in Amica's Florida office as a Senior Claims Adjuster. It is, at least, extremely unlikely that any matters regarding Amica that come before the Lincoln Town Council would have the potential to affect the Petitioner's sister's financial interests, particularly given that his sister's employment is in Florida, not Rhode Island. However, when Amica appears before him, the Petitioner should disclose his sister's relationship with Amica before he participates in such matters. Such disclosure also will allow Amica or other interested parties to advise the Petitioner as to whether a matter before the Lincoln Town Council may in fact affect his sister as an Amica employee. Additionally, if a matter comes before the Petitioner that does affect his sister directly, he should recuse himself from participation and file a statement of conflict of interest with the Town Council and with the Ethics Commission. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-6.

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Family: Private employer/ment