Advisory Opinion No. 96-110

Re: Denis H. Fortier


The petitioner, Chairperson of the Woonsocket School Committee, a municipal elected position, requests an advisory opinion as to what actions he should take given that his father has applied for a custodian position within the Woonsocket Education Department.


The Commission provides advisory opinions as to prospective conduct and does not opine, in the advisory context, as to actions that have already been taken. In this matter, the petitioner, as Chairman of the Woonsocket School Committee, a municipal elected position, may not participate in the hiring of his father, or if his father is appointed, in personnel issues specifically related to his father. This is based on

Sections 5(a) & 7(a) of the Code of Ethics which provide that the petitioner shall not have any interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect, or engage in any employment, transaction which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties in the public interest. A substantial conflict of interest occurs if the petitioner has reason to believe or expect that she or any family member or business associate, or any business by which she is employed will derive a direct monetary gain or suffer a direct monetary loss by reason of her official activity. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 36-14-5(a), 7(a). Also, he may not use his office for financial gain for himself or any member of his immediate family. R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(d). Additionally, as discussed in General Commission Advisory No. 1, these Code provisions prohibit participation by one family member in personnel decisions regarding another. As such, the petitioner should file a recusal in accordance with R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-6 in decisions regarding his father.

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family: public employment