Advisory Opinion No. 99-128

Re: Robert R. Picerno

QUESTION PRESENTED

The petitioner, a Town of Lincoln Planning Board member, a municipal appointed position, requests an advisory opinion as to whether he may show public documents concerning subdivision plans to Lincoln Town Council members in order to obtain their input on proposed projects.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that no provisions of the Code of Ethics would prevent the petitioner, a Lincoln Planning Board member, a municipal appointed position, from showing public documents concerning subdivision plans to Lincoln Town Council members, provided that 1) the plans do not affect himself, a family member, an employer or business associate; and 2) he does not disclose confidential information acquired by him in the course of his official duties.

The issue raised by the petitioner here, i.e., whether it is proper for a Planning Board member to show subdivision plans to Town Councilors, is not addressed by the Code of Ethics. Under the Code, a public official may not participate in any matter in which he or she has an interest, financial or otherwise, which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his or her 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 he or she has a reason to believe or expect 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). Further, an official is prohibited from disclosing confidential information obtained in the course of his or her official duties. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(c). Therefore, provided that 1) the petitioner does not disclose confidential information obtained during the course of his official duties; and 2) the subdivision plans at issue do not affect himself, a family member, employer or business associate, the prohibitions of R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 36-14-5(a) and (c) and 36-14-7(a) are not implicated.

Code Citations:

36-14-5(a)
36-14-5(c)
36-14-7(a)

Related Advisory Opinions:

97-14

Keywords:

Code Jurisdiction