Advisory Opinion No. 99-51

Re: Francis A. Gaschen

QUESTIONS PRESENTED

The Mayor of the Town of Cumberland, a municipal elected position, requests an advisory opinion on behalf of two prospective appointees to the positions of assistant solicitors for the Town of Cumberland, municipal appointed positions, as to what, if any, restrictions under the Code of Ethics would affect the appointment and/or service of the individuals to those positions given that one of the individuals is a member of the Ethics Commission and one is a former employee of the Mayor’s in his private law practice.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the petitioner, the Mayor of the Town of Cumberland, a municipal elected position, may appoint a current member of the Ethics Commission to the position of assistant town solicitor, a municipal appointed position, and also may appoint a former business associate to the position of assistant town solicitor.

R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-8(f) places restrictions on the nature of activities, primarily political and government, in which a member of the Ethics Commission may participate. For example, a member of the Commission may not “hold or campaign for any other public office” or “directly or indirectly attempt to influence any decision by a governmental body, other than as the duly authorized representative of the Commission on a matter within the jurisdiction of the Commission.” The Code of Ethics does not prohibit a member of the Commission from receiving an appointment from a state or municipal entity, whether while serving on the Commission or for a period of time thereafter. Section 36-14-8 also is not a “prohibited activities” section of the law. Rather, whether an appointment received by a member of the Commission falls within the restrictions of R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-8(f) is a matter for the Governor to determine, not the Ethics Commission or, for that matter, the member’s appointing authority. See A.O. 94-18 (Amended).

As to the second individual, the petitioner represents that at the time he would commence work with the Town of Cumberland he would not have any private business association with the Mayor. Revolving door prohibitions do not run from the private sector to the public sector. Therefore, once the prospective appointee and the Mayor cease to have private business affiliations they cease to have a relationship that would implicate provisions of the Code of Ethics. Unless and until that affiliation concludes, however, the two remain business associates, which would implicate a variety of provisions of the Code of Ethics and prohibit the appointment referenced here. See R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 36-14-5(a) and (d).

Code Citations:

36-14-5(a)
36-14-5(d)
36-14-8(f)

Related Advisory Opinions:

94-18 (amended)
99-37
99-35
99-33
99-27
99-26
99-24
99-21
99-19
99-11
99-07
99-03

Keywords:

Business Associate
Appointing Authority
Private Employment
Prospective Employment
Revolving Door