Advisory Opinion No. 98-89

Advisory Opinion No. 98-89

Re: Stanley P. Wojciechowski


The Petitioner, a Narragansett Town Councilor, a municipal elected position, requests an advisory opinion as to whether he may vote on providing Town funding to the Narragansett Chamber of Commerce given that he and his spouse operate a real estate rental business that is a member organization in the Chamber of Commerce.


It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the Petitioner, a Narragansett Town Councilor, a municipal elected position, may participate in discussions and vote on whether to provide Town funding to the Narragansett Chamber of Commerce. The real estate rental company he and his wife operate is a member organization of the Chamber, which consists of approximately 450 individual and business members. The Chamber draws its membership from communities throughout the State’s South County region. Membership is open to any individual or business. Neither the Petitioner nor his spouse is a member of the Chamber’s Board of Directors.

The primary benefit that he and his wife’s business derives from the Chamber is through its referral system. The referral process consists of persons calling the Chamber of Commerce with questions about, for instance, real estate agencies. The Chamber provides callers with a list of members and/or member organizations that meet their criteria. Preference is not given to one business over another, nor is there any other connection between the Chamber and the real estate business operated by the Petitioner and his wife. This is different than, for example, an arrangement whereby an attorney refers title search business to a particular company. See A.O. E87-1. Given that the Petitioner is not in a position to affect the interests of the Narragansett Chamber of Commerce as a member, he does not have a substantial conflict of interest under the Code of Ethics as set forth in R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 36-14-5(a) and 7(a). In addition, the make-up of the Chamber and the structure of its referral process are such that any economic benefit flowing to the Petitioner and his wife because of the referral process is no greater or lesser than the benefit available to all of the members of the Chamber. R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-7(b).

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