Advisory Opinion No. 99-70

Re: Robert D. Bailey

QUESTION PRESENTED

The petitioner, an Engineer with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), a state employee position, requests an advisory opinion as to whether he may submit materials for approval to the Individual Sewage Disposal Systems division of the DEM (ISDS), where he worked until October 11, 1998, and what restrictions would attach to his making submissions to the ISDS given that he continues to work for the DEM, albeit in a different division.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the petitioner, an Engineer with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), a state employee position, should not submit material for approval before the Individual Sewage Disposal Systems division (ISDS) of the DEM until October 11, 1999, one year from the official severance of his position with that Division as part of his private employment. R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(e).

The Code of Ethics provides that, for a period of one year after a person has officially terminated his or her position with any state or municipal agency, that person shall not appear before the state or municipal agency on which the person had served. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 36-14-5(e). In past decisions, the Commission has held that the revolving door provisions of subsection 5(e) may apply to either the entire agency by which an individual was employed or, more narrowly, to only the department within an agency that formerly employed the individual or with whom he/she had contact. The latter is the method of analysis that the Commission has applied to, for instance, the DEM, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Human Services.

In this matter, the petitioner represents that he worked with the ISDS division until October of last year. ISDS is the division of the DEM that issues septic system permits. Since that time, he has worked in a different division of the DEM. Because the petitioner has left his position within the past year, he is prohibited from appearing before the ISDS until that year expires. The prohibition extends to any co-workers and/or contractors working on behalf of his company unless some procedure or mechanism can be devised to insulate the petitioner's public duties from the company's private endeavors. Such recusal will ensure that he will not use his public office or confidential information received through his public employment to obtain financial gain. After one year from the termination of his employment in the ISDS, however, the petitioner may submit such material to that division which may include routine follow-ups to these submissions. However, the petitioner may not have any personal involvement with a matter before the ISDS division of the DEM that goes beyond ministerial activities (e.g. hand delivering documents to or reviewing files at the division) so as to constitute "representing another person" nor serve as an expert witness before the expiration of one year from the date of his official severance from the DEM. R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(e). Additionally, the petitioner may not use any confidential information he obtained while working for the ISDS division for financial gain. R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(b), (c), (d). This matter is essentially the same situation presented by Advisory Opinion 97-1 where the petitioner had worked for the ISDS division of DEM, but moved into another Division and sought to conduct his private business which could include contact with the ISDS division.

Code Citations:

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

Related Advisory Opinions:

97-1
97-2
97-46
98-106

Keywords:

Revolving Door