Advisory Opinion No. 99-89

Re: Michael J. Vendetti

QUESTION PRESENTED

The petitioner, a Town of Johnston firefighter, a municipal employee position, requests an advisory opinion as to whether the Code of Ethics bars him from seeking a position on the Johnston School Committee and, if not, whether the Johnston Town Charter prohibits dual office holding.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the Code of Ethics does not bar the petitioner, a Town of Johnston firefighter, a municipal employee position, from seeking or being elected to the Johnston School Committee.

Sections 5(a) and 5(d) of the Code of Ethics do not create an absolute bar to simultaneous service as a School Committee member and as a firefighter in the same municipality. Rather, those provisions require a matter by matter evaluation and determination as to whether substantial conflicts of interest exist with respect to carrying out an official or employee's duty in the public interest. However, it is not likely that the petitioner's involvement with the School Committee would impact on his responsibilities with the Fire Department, and vice versa, given the different spheres of responsibilities that fall to the respective agencies. In the event that such matters would arise, the petitioner is required to recuse from participation and complete a statement of conflict of interest in accordance with R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-6.

Finally, the petitioner is advised that this opinion solely addresses whether the Code of Ethics prohibits him, as a municipal employee, from seeking or holding office as a School Committee member. This opinion does not, and cannot, address whether the Town of Johnston Charter or any other statutes, rulings or policies, specifically from the State Board of Elections or the Attorney General's Office, prohibits such simultaneous service. The Ethics Commission does not exercise jurisdiction over those statutes and therefore is not empowered to issue advisory opinions addressing or interpreting their effect.

Code Citations:

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

Related Advisory Opinions:

98-116
98-104
98-37
97-127
97-23
95-62
95-38
93-13
90-11

Keywords:

Candidate
Dual Public Roles