Public Policy

Public Policy

CODE OF ETHICS/CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Position In Brief: 

The League of Women Voters of Rhode Island supports a code of ethics law including the following provisions:

Coverage
1. state and municipal elected officials

2. state and municipal appointed officials, and

3. employees of state and local government, of boards, commissions and agencies.

Financial Disclosure Required of all elected and appointed officials and those employees whose position involves significant phases of bid specifications or the selection process once bids have been submitted with the following requirements:

1. All sources of income, not simply those affiliations that have done business with the state.

2. Assets (excluding personal property), real estate (excluding principal residence), debts.

3. Disclosure to be either by exact amount or by financial categories.

4. Records to be open to the public.

Restricted Activities As a conflict occurs whenever a public official has a private interest, which interferes with the ability of the official to carry out the public duty objectively and impartially, therefore those activities are restricted as follows:

1. Officials may not vote on matters that will benefit them personally more than other members of their professions.

2. In votes that may concern officials professionally, they should disclose for the record their professional involvement.

3. Officials may do business with the state, but only where competitive bidding is required.

4. Officials may sit on committees concerned with their professional fields.

Enforcement and Education
1. A non-partisan independent commission, with representation from citizens not working in the public sector.

2. Criminal penalties with fines mandated
3. Investigation of complaints:

a. State 1 - Any citizen, without a sworn statement, may make a complaint to the commission. Within a stated period of time, the commission confidentially would investigate the complaint to ascertain whether the accusation warranted further investigation.
b. State 2 - Prior to a public investigation, the initial complainant would be required to file a sworn statement with the ensuing investigation is public.

4. Continuing ethics education for public officials, employees and the general public.

Update The League urged prompt enforcement and compliance with the 1976 law. In addition, the League supported inclusion of debts as well as quantitative measurement of income under the financial disclosure statement.

In 1986 Rhode Island voters went to the polls and passed the Ballot Resolution "Ethics in Government," which came out of the 1986 Constitutional Convention. As a result of the new law, the independent RI Ethics Commission had the power to prosecute RI lawmakers as well as all elected and appointed officials, but that changed in 2009 when the Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled in Irons v. Rhode Island Ethics Commission that legislators are immune from the Code of Ethics for their "core legislative acts," including voting and speaking on bills.

After seven years of debate and lobbying, the issue was again placed on the ballot and the voters again approved the Ethics Commission's jurisdiction over legislators.

More information on the history of the Ethics Commission is available in the LWVRI Archives.

Position History: 

Review Committee recommendations adopted at State Council, April 25, 1998; adopted 1976

Issues: 
Secure equal rights and equal opportunity for all. Promote social and economic justice, and the health and safety of all Americans.
League to which this content belongs: 
- Private group -