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Guide to the Code of Ethics

This provides a brief overview of the Code of Ethics for public officials and employees. It is not meant to serve as formal advice or to substitute for legal counsel. The Ethics Commission conducts hearings to consider revisions to the Code of Ethics. For up-to-date and complete information, contact the Commission at 401-222-3790 or by email at ethics.email@ethics.ri.gov.

Nepotism and Favoritism
Gifts
Honoraria
Municipal and State Property
Confidential Information
Outside Employment
Acting as Agent or Attorney
Appearances before your own Agency
Public Forum
Revolving Door
Contracts
Transactions with Subordinates

Nepotism and Favoritism:

You may not participate in official actions, decisions or deliberations that affect your family members, business associates, outside employers or any business you represent. You may not hire, evaluate, supervise or otherwise participate in employment decisions affecting your family members. For an exhaustive list of persons who qualify as family members, See Commission Regulation 36-14-5004(a)(2). Business associates include anyone with whom your have joined together to achieve a common financial objective. See R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 36-14-5(a), 5(d), 5(f), 7(a), 7(b), and Commission Regulations 36-14-5004 and 5005.

Gifts:

You may not accept anything of value based on the understanding that the gift will influence your judgment or official action. This prohibition includes anything of value given to your family or your business associates. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(g),(i). Additionally, if you participate in making decisions, you may not accept cash or forgiveness of debt from interested persons, but may accept things of value (gifts, loans, rewards, promises of future employment, favors, discounts, etc.) from interested persons having a value up to and including $25 per instance and up to $75 per year from each interested person. An interested person is a person, business, or representative that has a direct financial interest in a decision that you participate in making. See Commission Regulation 5009. If you are a state procurement official, you may not accept any goods or services for personal use for less than fair market value from state vendors or prospective vendors within a 24 month time period. See R. I. Gen. Laws § 36-14.1-2.

Honoraria:

You may be asked to speak at conferences, meetings, and other functions. You may not accept honoraria, or payment, if you use public time or resources to prepare for or make the presentation or if you have decision-making authority over the sponsor. See Commission Regulation 5010.

Municipal/State Property:

Public property, vehicles, equipment and supplies are intended to serve a public purpose. Any use of municipal or state property for private purposes must conform to laws, rules and regulations adopted by the state, city or by your department. See R.I.G.L. § 36-14-5(d).

Confidential Information:

You may not use or disclose, for financial gain, confidential information acquired in the course of your official duties. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(c).

Outside Employment:

You may have a private or public sector job in addition to your state/municipal position; however, you may not accept outside employment that impairs your independence of judgment or that induces you to disclose confidential government information. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(b).

Acting as an Agent or Attorney:

You may not receive compensation to represent any person or organization before any agency, board, commission or other government entity over which you exercise fiscal or jurisdictional control, in any matter in which the state has an interest or is a party. There are several exceptions: You may accept outside compensation to represent others in the manner described above, if you are acting as a representative of a duly certified bargaining unit or the representation takes place in a state court of public record or you are asking the government entity to carry out a mandatory duty that does not involve any discretion. See Commission Regulation 36-14-5008(a).

Appearances Before Your Own Agency:

You may not represent yourself or anyone else before the agency you are a member of or employed by or any other agency for which your agency is the appointing authority. You also may not serve as an expert witness before your own agency. These prohibitions continue for one year after you leave your public job. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(e). The Ethics Commission may grant a hardship exemption allowing you to represent yourself before your own agency. To obtain an exemption you must request an advisory opinion. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-11 and Ethics Commission Procedural Regulation 1024.

Public Forum Exception:

The Code of Ethics does not limit your right to express your opinions and viewpoints in a public forum on any matter of general public interest, or any matter which affects said individual or his or her spouse or dependent child. See Ethics Commission Regulation 36-14-7003.

Revolving Door:

Members of a public body may not accept appointment from that body to any position that carries with it financial benefit or remuneration. This prohibition continues until one year after you leave your position. See Commission Regulation 36-14-5006. If you hold a senior policy-making, discretionary or confidential position on the staff of a state elected official or the General Assembly, you may not seek or accept other state employment in the classified, unclassified, or nonclassified service. This prohibition continues until one year after you leave your job. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(o). Limited exceptions apply under both provisions.

Contracts:

You may not enter into any contract with state or local government unless the contract is awarded through an open and public bidding process, including prior public notice and subsequent public disclosure. You may not be hired to provide professional services unless there is prior public notice and subsequent disclosure. These prohibitions also apply to your family, your business associates and to any business in which you, your family or business associates have a 10% or greater equity interest or a $5000 or greater cash value interest. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(h).

Transactions with Subordinates:

You may not engage in a financial transaction, including private employment, loans, monetary, political or charitable contributions with an employee, contractor, or consultant over whom you exercise supervisory responsibilities. Exceptions include transactions in the normal course of a regular commercial business, or if the subordinate initiates the financial transaction, or for charitable events that are sponsored by the highest official or governing body of the state or municipality. See Commission Regulation 36-14-5011.