Advisory Opinion No. 99-38

Re: Kevin F. Dwyer, Esq.

QUESTION PRESENTED

The petitioner, recently appointed as an Assistant Solicitor for the Town of Middletown, a municipal appointed position, requests an advisory opinion as to whether the appointment requires him to resign as Chairperson of the Middletown Democratic Town Committee.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the Code of Ethics does not prohibit the petitioner, an Assistant Solicitor for the Town of Middletown, a municipal appointed position, from simultaneously serving as Chairperson of the Middletown Democratic Town Committee.

Under the Code of Ethics, the petitioner may not participate in any matter in which he has an interest, financial or otherwise, 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). He also may not accept other employment which will impair his independence of judgment as to his official duties. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(b). Further, the Code provides that he shall not solicit or accept a promise of future employment based on any understanding that his vote, official action, or judgment would thereby be influenced. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(g).

The general prohibitions contained in the Code of Ethics do not require that public officials or employees be without partisan political affiliations. Here, the petitioner is Chair of the Middletown Democratic Town Committee. Since the Committee is not a governmental agency, any action taken by him as its Chair is private, not public, conduct. The prohibitions contained in Section 5(a) and 5(b) of the Code do not apply to his activity with the Committee since it does not constitute “employment" that will impair his independence of judgment as his public position. See A.O. 96-78, A.O. 95-51. Therefore, provided that he did not receive his appointment as Assistant Solicitor as a quid pro quo for his actions as Chairperson of the Democratic Town Committee, the Code of Ethics does not otherwise prohibit such simultaneous service. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(g).

Code Citations:

36-14-5(a)
36-14-5(b)
36-14-5(g)

Related Advisory Opinions:

98-146
98-107
96-78
95-51

Keywords:

Political activity