Advisory Opinion No. 99-3

Re: Robert Boyden

QUESTION PRESENTED

The petitioner, a Foster Town Councilor, a municipal elected position, requests an advisory opinion as to whether he may participate and vote on the re-appointment of the Town Building and Zoning Official and the Town Solicitors, given that those positions are held by relatives of a woman he is dating.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the petitioner, a Foster Town Councilor, a municipal elected position, may participate and vote on the re-appointment of the Town Building and Zoning Official and the Town Solicitors, despite the fact that those positions are held by relatives of a woman he is dating.

Under the Code of Ethics, the petitioner is prohibited from taking any official action that is likely to have a direct financial impact on, among others, a family member, or from having an interest which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties in the public interest. See R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 36-14-5(a), 5(d) and 7(a). While the prohibitions set out in the Code of Ethics extend their reach to family members and business associates, they do not extend to, for instance, friends. Here, the individuals currently holding the positions at issue are not “family members” of the petitioner; rather they are family members of a woman he is dating. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-2(1) and Commission Regulation 36-14-5005. Since the petitioner does not have a “family member” serving as the Town Building and Zoning Official or the Town Solicitors, no conflict of interest exists under the Code of Ethics which would require recusal in this matter.

Code Citations:

36-14-2(1)
36-14-5(a)
36-14-7(a)
36-14-5005

Related Advisory Opinions:

97-133
97-99
93-80

Keywords:

Family: Public employment
Nepotism