Advisory Opinion No. 99-16

Re: The Honorable Roger Badeau

QUESTION PRESENTED

The petitioner, a legislator serving as a state senator, a state elected official, requests an advisory opinion as to whether he may attend the annual luncheon of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce if he purchases a ticket covering the cost of the meal.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the petitioner, a legislator serving as a state senator, a state elected official, may attend the annual luncheon of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce if 1) he pays full value for a ticket to the luncheon, or 2) he purchases a reduced cost ticket covering the cost of the meal at the luncheon, provided that all attendees at the luncheon have the option of purchasing a reduced cost ticket.

The petitioner advises that he wishes to attend the annual luncheon of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce(the “Chamber”). In past years, the Chamber invited all members of the General Assembly as its guests. The petitioner represents that this year the Chamber will offer a $50.00 ticket to the event, representing both the cost of the meal and a contribution to the Chamber. He indicates that a $14.00 ticket will be offered to members of the General Assembly, representing the cost of the meal alone.

Commission Regulation 36-14-5009 provides that no person subject to the Code of Ethics shall accept a gift or other thing of economic value, including a meal, from an “interested person.” The regulation defines “interested person” as an 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 to participate in the making of, as part of his or her official duties. The Chamber is an interested person as it has a direct financial interest in decisions made by the petitioner as a member of the General Assembly. Therefore, members of the General Assembly may not accept anything of economic value from the Chamber, including a meal, unless it falls within one of Regulation 5009’s specific exceptions.

The Commission concludes that the petitioner 1) may purchase a ticket to the luncheon at full cost or 2) may purchase a reduced cost ticket covering the cost of the meal at the luncheon, provided that the option of purchasing the same ticket is available to all attendees, and not just to members of the General Assembly. Again, he may purchase a $50.00 ticket, representing both the cost of the meal and a contribution to the Chamber, since that ticket is available to all attendees. However, he may not purchase a $14.00 ticket, representing the cost of the meal alone, unless all attendees have the option of purchasing said ticket. The petitioner’s purchase of a $14.00 ticket otherwise would constitute the acceptance of a gift from an interested person, a $36.00 ticket discount for legislatorsin violation of Regulation 5009.

Code Citations:

36-14-5009

Related Advisory Opinions:

98-170
98-121

Keywords:

Gifts