Advisory Opinion No. 96-103

Re: Donald J. Packer, Esq.


A private attorney practicing before various boards and commissions of the Town of South Kingstown, requests an advisory opinion as to whether the Code of Ethics would prohibit him from appearing before these boards and commissions as well as the Town Council, his appointing authority, if he is appointed to the Board of Trustees of the South Kingstown School Funds.


It is the opinion of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission that the Code of Ethics does not bar the petitioner from appearing before the Town Council or other boards or commissions, if he is appointed to a position on the Board of Trustees of the South Kingstown School Funds.

This conclusion is based previous advisory opinions and provisions of the Code of Ethics. The Board of Trustees manages various trust funds which includes investment of funds as well as disbursement of funds to the School and recreational facilities. It does not appear that the petitioner has an interest in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties in the public interest since neither he nor a client or business associate would be recipients of the funds and thus would not derive a direct monetary gain by reason of his official activity. R.I. Gen. Laws §36-14-5(a), 7(a). Additionally, the petitioner does not exercise any sort of fiscal or jurisdictional control over the Council or any other municipal entity. Regulation §36-14-5008. Also, since the petitioner does not represent clients before the Board of Trustees and is not an employee of the City or other municipal agency, R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(e) does not apply. This finding is consistent with previous advisory opinions. In A.O. 96-1, the Commission concluded that a Newport Probate Judge could appear and represent clients before the City Council so long as those matters are not related to matters that the petitioner was involved in as a Judge. The Commission found that the mere fact that a public official appears before his or her appointing authority does not constitute a violation of the Code of Ethics without additional evidence implicating the specific prohibitions set forth in R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5. Additionally, the Commission found R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(e) to be inapplicable. We caution the petitioner that should he encounter circumstances as a Trustee that would affect himself, a client, or a business associate or that would induce him to disclose confidential information obtained in his position as Trustee, he should either seek further guidance from this Commission or recuse in accordance with Section 6 of the Code.

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