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Public Employees and Officials Undertaking Other Employment

Secondary private and public employment can cause conflicts of interest in some circumstances. The following are considerations for the public official or employee contemplating a second job.

Things to Consider

  • Is the second job related to your public position?
  • Will you be doing similar work?
  • Will you come in contact with the same people in both jobs?
  • Can you refer clients to your private employer?
  • Does your second job require you to access information through your public agency?
  • Is the information confidential or public?
  • Do you have special access to information at your agency?
  • Is your private employer funded by or have a contract with your agency?
  • Does your private employment require you to appear (ie. make presentations) before your own agency?
  • Does your employer appear before your agency?

Dos and Don'ts

  • Do not participate as a public employee or official in matters concerning your private employer.
  • Do not use public resources or time to perform your private job.
  • When recusing from participation in official matters, complete a conflict of interest form, give it your supervisor and send a copy to the Ethics Commission.
  • Call the Ethics Commission if you are unclear about your responsibilities.
  • Always ask for an Advisory Opinion from the Ethics Commission in advance of accepting private employment or taking official action if you are unsure about the potential conflicts posed.

In previous advisory opinions, the Commission has given its approval to public employees to accept outside employment provided that: (1) the public employee’s official duties did not directly relate to his private employment, (2) the public employee completed such work outside of his normal working hours, and (3) the public employee did not appear before his own agency.  See A.O. 2007-38 (opining that the Senior Appraiser for the State of Rhode Island Department of Administration, Office of Municipal Affairs, may accept private employment in the form of a part-time job as a data collector for Clipboard, Inc., a property reevaluation company, provided that she do the work on her own time, without the use of public resources and that she not appear before her own agency); A.O. 2006-17 (opining that a Lieutenant on the East Providence Police Department could apply for a private investigator’s license and operate said business in the City of East Providence, provided that: (1) he had no involvement with matters subject to the East Providence Police Department’s official jurisdiction; (2) he did not disclose any confidential information he obtained in the course of his employment with the Police Department; (3) he performed such work on his own time and without the use of public resources, including law enforcement databases; (4) he did not use his position as a police officer to obtain clients or private work; and (5) he did not accept any cases or perform any work within the City of East Providence for as long as he was employed by the East Providence Police Department); A.O. 2005-52 (opining that a part-time Town Planner for the Town of Exeter was not prohibited by the Code of Ethics from accepting part-time work as a consultant on two projects for the Exeter Town Council and Planning Board); A.O. 2004-24 (opining that a member of the City of Cranston Fire Department and Assistant Deputy State Fire Marshal was not prohibited by the Code of Ethics from providing consulting services relating to fire safety and code compliance outside of Cranston);  A.O. 2001-27 (finding that a Captain in the Cranston Fire Department could accept private employment with an architect to review plans for submission to another municipality for fire code compliance, provided that: (1) he had no involvement with plans subject to his official jurisdiction; (2) he performed such work on his own time and without the use of public resources; and (3) he did not use his position within the Fire Department to recruit potential clients); A.O. 2000-27 (opining that the Newport Tax Assessor could accept part-time employment with a local appraisal company and/or assist private parties with appeals of property valuations in other communities, provided that: (1) he has no involvement with properties located within his official jurisdiction; (2) he performed such work on his own time and without the use of public resources; and (3) he did not use his position as Tax Assessor to recruit potential clients).

Individuals with questions and concerns as to whether secondary private or additional public employment may implicate any of the prohibitions found within the Code of Ethics should contact the Ethics Commission staff at (401) 222-3790 or request an advisory opinion, in writing, that includes a complete statement of the relevant facts, any relevant time constraints, the reason for requesting the opinion and the signature of the individual making the request. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-11 and Commission Regulation 1024.

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