Advisory Opinion No. 99-108

Re: Paula Badessa

QUESTION PRESENTED

The petitioner, the former City of Cranston Department of Economic Development Director, a municipal employee position, requests an advisory opinion as to whether the Code of Ethics limits her post-employment contacts with the City.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the Code of Ethics prohibits the petitioner, a former City of Cranston Department of Economic Development Director, a municipal employee position, from appearing before or representing her private employer before the Department of Economic Development for a period of one year after she ended her employment with the City of Cranston. R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(e). The petitioner may, however, perform ministerial activities involving her former employer. Ministerial tasks include actions which do not require the petitioner’s discretion such as hand-delivering documents, reviewing files, or other non-substantive activities. Section 5(e)'s revolving door restrictions also do not extend to the petitioner having substantive involvement in matters before City divisions, agencies or departments other than the Economic Development Department provided that in her previous employment with the City of Cranston she did not exercise supervisory or policy-making authority within the particular division or agency. In any instance, the petitioner may not use any confidential information obtained while working for the City for financial gain. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 36-14-5(a), (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 the City of Cranston where the employee formerly was employed. In Advisory Opinion 98-11, the Commission concluded that a former Department of Environmental Management (DEM) employee was not barred or restricted from interacting with a DEM division with which he had no substantive involvement during his employment, but that he was limited to performing ministerial activities in any matter which would involve the division by which he was formerly employed. See also 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).

The petitioner represents that her employer, the Capital Group, has associated with The Hartford Insurance Company as its local representative regarding its contract with the City of Cranston, specifically the Deferred Compensation Program. She represents that she is not a registered financial consultant and, therefore, could not sign up employees for the program (other individuals in her office would be doing that work). The petitioner states that her only possible contact with the City in this regard is to be part of a seminar explaining the program.

Given the petitioner's representations, her particular involvement with this program does not fall within the revolving door restrictions set out in Section 5(e). However, she is prohibited from any substantive involvement in matters before the Economic Development Department for a period of one-year following her severance from that position. Notwithstanding this limitation, she is not prohibited or restricted from appearing before any other municipal agency or division of the City as provided herein. Finally, the petitioner is prohibited from using any confidential information obtained from the City for financial gain.

Code Citations:

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

Related Advisory Opinions:

99-70
99-61
98-13
98-11
98-5
97-46
97-2
97-1
96-102

Keywords:

Post-Employment
Private Employment
Revolving Door