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Revolving Door and Post-Public Employment

The Code of Ethics includes provisions that regulate some activities of public officials and employees after they have left state or municipal service. The following information provides some general guidance on the various provisions of the Code that address such post-employment activities. Former public officials and employees with questions about post-employment issues can call the Ethics Commission at (401)-222-3790 or request an advisory opinion in writing, which 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.

Appearing Before Your Former Agency:

Several provisions within the Code of Ethics place limitations on former public officials and employees appearing before their former agency after exiting public service. In general, after leaving state or municipal service, a person may not represent themselves, represent any other person, or act as an expert witness before their former agency for a period of one year after officially severing employment or service with that former agency. In some circumstances, the Ethics Commission may grant a "hardship" exception and allow such representation in a formal advisory opinion issued by the Commission. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(e)(4) and Regulations 36-14-5015 and 36-14-5016. See also A.O. 2008-6 (opining that a former Senior Medical Care Specialist for the Department of Human Services (“DHS”) was not prohibited by the Code of Ethics from accepting a job offer in a social work position at the Jean Jugan Residence, notwithstanding the fact that the pending position would require making referrals for the medical assistance eligibility review of residents to DHS, provided that she did not represent those residents, her employer, or anyone else before DHS for one year subsequent to her separation from public employment, and that, furthermore, her interactions with DHS on behalf of these residents for the first year following her official severance date from public employment may only be ministerial, and not substantive, in nature).

Confidential Information:

Several provisions of the Code of Ethics prohibit public officials and employees from using or disclosing confidential information acquired during the course of, or by reason of, their official duties or employment, for financial gain. These prohibitions continue after an official or employee has severed from service. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(b)-(d). See also A.O. 2008-2 (opining that former the Associate Director of the Department of Children, Youth and Families (“DCYF”) was not prohibited by the Code of Ethics from authoring a response to a request for proposals (“RFP”) issued by the Department of Human Services (“DHS”), notwithstanding the fact that the RFP called for the creation of a network of residential care providers for youth, some of whom were in the custody of or otherwise involved with DCYF, provided that, amongst other things, he did not use any confidential information he obtained while working for DCYF for financial gain).

Employment with Other State/Municipal Agencies or From Your Former Board:

The Code of Ethics places a number of restrictions on former state and municipal officials and employees seeking employment within the first year of severing from public service. The nature of the restriction varies depending on whether the person was a state or municipal official, an elected or appointed official, or a state or municipal employee. For specific guidance, see the applicable portion of the Code, but in general, for the first year following severance from service:

  • Elected state officials and General Assembly Members may not seek or accept employment with state agencies, other than that held at the time of election, except that such person may seek election to any other constitutional office and may be appointed to a senior policy-making position on a general officer's or general assembly's staff, or appointment by the governor as a department director. The Ethics Commission may authorize additional exceptions. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(n) and Regulation 36-14-5007.
  • Persons holding senior policy-making, discretionary, or confidential positions on a state elected official's staff are prohibited from accepting employment with other state agencies, except that such persons having five years or more of uninterrupted state service are exempt from the prohibition and that such individuals may serve as independent contractors or consultants for the first 90 days after severance to assist in the transition. Furthermore, the prohibition does not prevent such persons from being appointed to other such senior policy-making, discretionary or confidential positions or from seeking or accepting such employment. See R.I. Gen. Laws § 36-14-5(o) and Regulation 36-14-5018.
  • Elected and appointed officials may not accept appointment or election to positions that carry any financial benefit that requires approval by the body that the person was a formerly a member of, except that the Ethics Commission may allow for exceptions in hardship situations. See Regulation 36-14-5006.
  • Members of the General Assembly serving as members of executive, public or quasi-public boards, authorities, corporations, commissions or agencies may not seek or accept employment, including as an agent, attorney, service provider or consultant for any business with a financial interest in a contract in which the board was an interested party and was in effect during the member's time of service. See Regulation 36-14-5013(c).
  • Municipal elected officials and school committee members may not seek or accept employment within any municipal agency in the municipality of service, other than that held at the time of election. See Regulation 36-14- 5014.
  • For restrictions on persons holding positions in the Governor's Office or the Department of Administration, see Regulation 36-14- 5015.