Advisory Opinion No. 99-39

Re: Wayne R. Pimental

QUESTION PRESENTED

The petitioner, the Town of East Greenwich Alternate Building Official, a municipal appointed official, and the Town’s Special Projects Coordinator, a municipal employee position, requests an advisory opinion as to whether he may provide architectural design services to private clients within the Town of East Greenwich, provided that he recuses himself from participation in any review and/or inspection of projects in which he is involved in his private employment.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the petitioner, the Town of East Greenwich Alternate Building Official, a municipal appointed official, and Special Projects Coordinator, a municipal employee position, may provide architectural design services to private clients within the Town of East Greenwich, provided 1) that he recuses from participation in any review and/or inspection of projects in which he is involved in his private employment; and, 2) that his private employment does not require him to appear before the Building Official.

The petitioner advises that his responsibilities as Special Projects Coordinator include the preparation of equipment specifications, construction documents and specifications for Town buildings and recreation facilities, and updating Town mapping. He represents that he acts as Alternate Building Official approximately ten to fifteen days per year. He indicates that the Town employs a part-time inspector who also may perform inspections during the Building Official’s absence. The petitioner advises that his private employment would not require him to appear before and/or submit applications to the Building Official.

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), 36-14-7(a). He 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, he is prohibited from using his public position or confidential information received through his position to obtain financial gain, other than that provided by law, for himself. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(d). Finally, Section 5(e)(1) of the Code provides that the he may not “represent [himself] before any state or municipal agency of which he …is a member.”

The Commission concludes that the Code of Ethics does not prohibit the petitioner from providing architectural design services to East Greenwich residents. However, as Alternate Building Official, he should recuse from participation in the review and/or inspection of any projects with which he is involved through his private employment. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(b). Based upon the petitioner’s representation that he will neither appear before nor submit applications to the Building Official, the prohibitions set forth in Section 5(e) are not implicated. Further, there is no evidence that his private employment will conflict with or in any way affect his duties as Special Projects Coordinator. The petitioner is reminded that he may not in any way use his public position to solicit business for himself. See R.I. Gen Laws §36-14-5(d). In the event that his private employment impairs his independence of judgment as to his official duties, or otherwise results in the disclosure of confidential information, the petitioner should exercise the notice and recusal sections of the Code. R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-6. Notice of any recusal should be filed with the Ethics Commission and the Town of East Greenwich pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-6.

Code Citations:

36-14-5(a)
36-14-5(b)
36-14-5(d)
36-14-5(e)

Related Advisory Opinions:

99-5
98-111
98-110
98-106
98-103
98-69
98-31
97-150
97-88
97-108
97-107
97-45
96-119
96-42
96-44
95-80
94-4
92-49
92-41

Keywords:

Private employment