Advisory Opinion No. 98-9

Re: John T. Gannon, Esq.


Whether the Mayor of the City of Pawtucket, a municipal elected position, and/or an administration employee, a municipal employee position, may receive payment for unused accrued vacation time upon leaving their respective positions with the City given that the ordinances of the City of Pawtucket, enacted into law during previous City administrations, specifically provide that departing Mayors and members of their administrations are eligible to be paid for up to a maximum of six weeks of unused vacation time.


General Commission Advisory Opinion No. 6, unanimously issued on April 27, 1989, states that "[w]here a public official takes any action with regard to salary or other benefits of employment which will benefit him or her directly, a probable violation of the Code of Ethics will occur.” See R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 36-14-5(a), (d) and 7(a). Commission advisory opinions and enforcement actions since the issuance of this general advisory have underscored that while “any action” purposely has a wide berth it is not applicable when a benefit accrues to a public official without that official initiating it.

Here, neither the Mayor nor the employee member of his administration has taken any action to initiate or enhance a benefit that they are entitled to receive upon leaving City service. A City ordinance specifically provides that “[e]ach individual Mayor, department head and mayoral appointee shall be allowed to accrue … and be paid for up to a maximum of six (6) weeks” of unused vacation time. The City Council passed the ordinance prior to the current Mayor assuming office and he did nothing during his administration to expand or enhance said benefit. Therefore, consistent with relevant City of Pawtucket ordinances, the Mayor and the employee member of his administration are entitled to payment for three weeks and one week, respectively, of unused vacation time.

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