Advisory Opinion No. 99-102

Re: Charles S. Brennan

QUESTION PRESENTED

The petitioner, an employee of the City of Providence Water Supply Board, a municipal employee position, requests an advisory opinion as to whether he may work for a vendor to the Providence Water Supply Board given that he does not have any influence or control over purchases or vendors.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the petitioner, an employee of the Providence Water Supply Board, a municipal employee position, may work for Current Context Technology Education Centers provided a) he does not have any authority or control as to the selection or supervision of the vendor for work provided to the Water Supply Board; b) he completes all work for his private employer on his own time (i.e. before or after his work-day, during vacations or personal time) and without use of city resources; c) he does not provide any confidential information he obtained while working at the Providence Water Supply Board to anyone, including his new employer; and d) he does not appear before his own agency in the course of his private employment.

Under the Code of Ethics, the petitioner may not engage in any business or professional activity that is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties or employment in the public interest. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(a). The petitioner also may not accept other employment that impairs his independence of judgment as to his official duties, or disclose confidential information acquired in the course of his official duties. See R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 36-14-5(b)and(c). Further, the provisions of R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(d) prohibit the petitioner from using his position or confidential information received through his position to obtain financial gain for himself or for any business by which he is employed. R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(d). Additionally,R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(e) is applicable here. Section 5(e) provides that the petitioner may not appear before his own agency on behalf of himself or any other person or entity, including his private employer.

After considering the petitioner's request and the relevant provisions of the Code of Ethics, we conclude that the Code does not prohibit the petitioner from accepting a position with Current Context Technology Education Centers, Inc. provided that a) he does not have any discretion with regard to selection or supervision of this vendor in his position at the Water Supply Board; b) he completes all work for his private employer on his own time (either before or after his normal working hours or during his vacation/personal time) and without use of city resources; c) he does not provide any confidential information he obtained while working at the Providence Water Supply Board to anyone, including his new employer; and d) he does not appear before his own agency in the course of his private employment.

This opinion is consistent with past advisory requests where we have given approval for employees to accept outside employment provided that a) the employees' official duties for their agency do not directly relate to their private employment; b) they complete the work before or after their normal working hours; and c) the employees do not appear before their own agency. See A.O. 96-31 (concluding that two Social Caseworkers for the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), who in their private capacities operated a graphic design studio on a part-time basis, could provide graphic design services to residential facilities provided that they completed all graphic design services after normal working hours and other officials at DCYF decide where, if necessary, to place developmentally delayed children); D.R. 95-2 (opining that state employees who served process in their official capacities or were employed by a state agency involved in the service of process should not serve process as private agents outside of normal working hours since the outside employment directly related to their official duties; however, employees who did not serve process in their official capacities and who were not employed by an agency that is responsible for the service of process may serve process as private agents since their official duties and the official duties of their agency do not directly relate to such private employment); A.O. 97-98 (advising Superior Court Clerk that she could accept other employment so long as she did not receive special access of information from the Court in performing her private employment); A.O. 99-70 (concluding that DEM employee could work for a private company so long as he did not submit material for approval before his former Division until one year from the official severance of his position with that Division).

Code Citations:

36-14-5(a)
36-14-5(b)
36-14-5(c)
36-14-5(d)
36-14-5(e)
36-14-7(a)

Related Advisory Opinions:

96-31
97-1
97-98
98-154
99-70
D.R. 95-2

Keywords:

Private Employment
Revolving Door