Advisory Opinion No. 99-61

Re: Timothy Regan

QUESTION PRESENTED

The petitioner, a former employee with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), a state employee position, requests an advisory opinion as to whether the Code of Ethics limits his post-employment contacts with DEM or other state agencies.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the Code of Ethics prohibits the petitioner, a former state employee within the Site Remediation Program at DEM, from appearing before or representing his private employer, Cyn Engineering, before the State Remediation Program for a period of one year after his employment with DEM was officially severed. R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(e). This provision is not absolute however, and does allow the petitioner to engage in ministerial activities before the State Remediation Program. Ministerial activities include actions which do not require the petitioner’s discretion such as hand-delivering documents, reviewing files at DEM, signing relevant applications or inquiring as to the status of an investigation. The Code provision also allows the petitioner to have substantive involvement in matters before DEM divisions other than the State Remediation Program or other state agencies provided that the petitioner did not exercise supervisory or policy-making authority within the particular division or agency and maintained only peripheral contact with the particular division or agency. In any instance, the petitioner may not use any confidential information obtained while working for DEM for financial gain. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 36-14-5(b), (c), (d).

This opinion comports with numerous prior advisory opinions in which the Commission limited application of the revolving door prohibition to the particular division within a large department like DEM where the employee was formerly employed. In Advisory Opinion 98-11, the Commission concluded that a former DEM employee was not barred or restricted from interacting with a DEM division with which he had no substantive involvement during his employment but was limited to performing ministerial activities in any matter which would involve the division by which he was formerly employed. See A.O. 97-46 (DEM engineer working in Office of Waste Management could submit material for approval to the DEM’s Office of Water Resources and Office of Compliance and Inspection as a private engineer so long as it was ministerial in nature and given that the petitioner did not have contact with the Office of Water Resources and Office of Inspection and Compliance in his position in the Office of Waste Management, nor exercise any supervisory or policy-making authority within the DEM that would extend to or affect those offices); A.O.97-2 (Principal Civil Engineer in the Bridge Design Section of the DOT could submit materials for approval of the Highway Maintenance Section and Road Design Section while employed there since the sections are separate and distinct entities within the department); and A.O. 98-5 (DHS Casework Supervisor in the East Providence Long Term Care Unit could accept private employment that may involve contact with the DHS so long as contact with East Providence Long Term Care Unit is ministerial in nature for a period of one-year from the date of separation).

Following this precedent, the petitioner here is prohibited from any substantive involvement in matters before the State Remediation Program at DEM for a period of one-year following his severance with DEM. However, he is not prohibited or restricted from appearing before any other state agency or division of DEM as provided herein. Finally, the petitioner is prohibited from using any confidential information obtained from DEM for financial gain.

Code Citations:

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

Related Advisory Opinions:

98-11
98-5
97-46
97-2
97-1
96-102

Keywords:

Post-Employment
Private Employment
Revolving Door