Advisory Opinion No. 99-77

Re: The Honorable Michael Pisaturo

QUESTION PRESENTED

The petitioner, a legislator serving as State Representative, a state elected position, requests an advisory opinion as to whether he may seek and accept full-time employment as a Community Health Educator at the AIDS Project Rhode Island, a non-profit HIV service organization which receives state funding.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the petitioner, a legislator serving as State Representative, a state elected position, may accept full-time employment as a Community Health Educator at the AIDS Project Rhode Island, a non-profit HIV service organization which receives state funding, provided that, as State Representative, he recuses himself from participation and/or vote on any matters which may financially impact his employer.

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). An official will have an interest in substantial conflict with his or her official duties if it is likely that a “direct monetary gain” or a “direct monetary loss” will accrue, by virtue of the public official’s activity, to the official, a family member, a business associate, an employer, or any business which the public official represents. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 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). He also 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, a business associate, or any business by which he is employed or represents. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(d).

The Commission concludes that the petitioner may accept private employment with the AIDS Project Rhode Island. His employment with the AIDS Project Rhode Island does not in and of itself prohibit him from participating in discussions and votes regarding the state budget generally, notwithstanding the fact that some of the funding within the budget may affect his employer. In the event that matters specifically relating to his employer come before him as a member of the House of Representatives, however, he should recuse from any participation and/or voting in connection with said matters. Notice of recusal should be filed with the Ethics Commission and the House of Representatives in accordance with R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-6. Further, the petitioner may participate and/or vote on budgetary matters involving health care issues generally, provided that he does not have reason to believe or expect that he or his employer will derive a direct monetary gain or suffer a direct monetary loss, by reason of his official conduct or participation. Finally, the petitioner is reminded that he may not appear before the General Assembly on behalf of his employer for a period of one-year following the expiration of his term of office. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(e).

Code Citations:

36-14-5(a)
36-14-5(b)
36-14-5(e)
36-14-6
36-14-7(a)

Related Advisory Opinions:

99-5
97-88
97-51
97-19
97-4
96-89
96-77
96-42
96-13
95-48
95-43
95-20
92-41
92-28
91-16

Keywords:

Private Employment
Prospective Employment