Advisory Opinion No. 99-149

Re: William J. Hall

QUESTION PRESENTED

The petitioner, a firefighter with the Washington Fire District, a regional employee position, requests an advisory opinion as to whether he may be a candidate for the Coventry Town Council.

RESPONSE

It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the Code of Ethics does not bar the petitioner, a firefighter with the Washington Fire District, a regional employee position, from running for or serving as a member of the Coventry Town Council.

Sections 5(a) and 5(d) of the Code of Ethics do not create an absolute bar to simultaneous service as a Town Council 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. Here, the petitioner notes that the Washington Fire District is not a unit of Coventry Town Government. Therefore, it is not likely that the petitioner's involvement with the Town Council 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 Town Council member. This opinion does not, and could not, address 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)
36-14-7(a)

Related Advisory Opinions:

99-92
98-167
98-102
98-66
98-58
98-35
98-19
96-63

Keywords:

Dual Public Roles