Advisory Opinion No. 99-14

Re: Frank M. Sylvester


The petitioner, the Chief of the Lime Rock Fire District Department, a municipal employee position, requests an advisory opinion on behalf of the Rhode Island Fire Chiefs' Association (Association), which is comprised of persons serving in municipal/regional appointed positions and/or municipal/regional employee positions, as to whether that Association may accept a one thousand dollar ($1,000) donation from the Volunteer Firefighters' Insurance Service (Service) to benefit the Fire Chiefs Legislature Forum if neither the Association nor the members of the Association, the Fire Chiefs, are authorized to make decision regarding insurance rates.


It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the Code of Ethics does not prohibit the Rhode Island Fire Chiefs' Association from accepting a gift/donation from the Volunteer Firefighters' Insurance Service for a Fire Chiefs Legislature Forum since the gift does fall within the prohibitions of Commission Regulation 36-14-5009. Under the provisions of this Regulation, a public official may not accept a gift from an "interested person," which is defined as any individual or business entity "that has a direct financial interest in a decision that the person subject to the Code of Ethics is authorized to make, or participate in the making of, as part of his or her official duties." Here, the petitioner represents that neither the Fire Chiefs' Association nor the individual Fire Chiefs are authorized to make decisions regarding insurance rates and carriers. As such, the Service is not an "interested person" since it does not have an interest in any decision to be made by the Association or the individual Fire Chiefs. Also, there is no evidence to suggest that the Service's gift/donation is intended to impermissibly influence any other decisions of the Fire Chiefs. See R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 36-14-5(g) and 5(i).

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