Advisory Opinion No. 99-17

Re: Robert M. Walker


The petitioner, the Lincoln Building Inspector, a municipal employee position, requests an advisory opinion as to whether the Rhode Island Builders Association may donate space at the upcoming home show at the Convention Center to the Rhode Island Building Officials Association.


It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the Rhode Island Building Officials Association, whose members are municipal employees, may accept a gift/donation of space at the upcoming home show at the Convention Center from the Rhode Island Builders Association. Under the provisions of this Commission Regulation 5009, a public official may not accept a gift from an "interested person," 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, members of the Building Officials Association may make decisions with regard to members of the Builders Association. As such, the Builders Association is an "interested person" as to the various Building Officials and the individual building officials cannot accept gifts or donations offered to them personally by the Builders Association or its members. However, the donation of space for the home show is being provided to the Building Officials Association, rather than to individual officials. Additionally, the donation of the booth does not confer a financial benefit on any individual member or members of the Association. Rather, it will be used to provide information to builders, homeowners and others attending the event. Therefore, the donation/gift is not prohibited by the gift regulation, Commission Regulation 5009. Finally, there is no evidence to suggest that the Builder's Association's gift/donation is intended to impermissibly influence any other decisions of the Building Officials. See R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 36-14-5(g) and 5(i).

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