Town of Westerly, RI
Washington County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Council of the Town of Westerly 6-29-2017 by Ch. No. 1894. Amendments noted where applicable.]
A. 
It is declared to be the policy of the Town of Westerly (the "Town") that all officials and employees of the Town are public servants of the people and hold their positions for the benefit of the public. These public servants shall fulfill conscientiously, according to the Westerly Home Rule Charter, the Code of Ordinances of the Town and all applicable laws, their duties and shall prove themselves in their behavior worthy of the esteem which their position requires. In all official activity, such officers and employees shall strive to meet the highest standards of ethics consistent with this Code and state law, regardless of personal considerations, recognizing that maintaining the respect of the people must be their foremost concern.
B. 
In enacting this Code of Ethics, the Town recognizes that the state Code of Ethics applies to all Town employees and officials. Accordingly, the purpose of the Town's ethics code is not to replicate the prohibitions and regulations which already govern municipal employees. Rather, the goal of this ethics code is supplement and enhance those prohibitions existing under the current state code and in so doing to hold the Town's employees and officials to the highest possible standards of ethics.
For purposes of this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
BUSINESS ASSOCIATE
A person joined together with another person to achieve a common financial objective.
ELECTED OFFICIAL
Any individual elected to an office created by the Charter of the Town.
EMPLOYEE
Any individual other than an elected or appointed official or an independent contractor, receiving compensation for services performed for the Town.
FAMILY MEMBER
An individual who is related to a person as father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half-brother, half-sister, grandparent, great-grandparent, grandchild, great-grandchild, stepgrandparent, step-great-grandparent, stepgrandchild, step-great-grandchild, person who is engaged to be married to the public officer or employee or who otherwise holds himself or herself out as or is generally known as the person whom the public officer or employee intends to marry or with whom the public officer or employee intends to form a household.
MUNICIPAL AGENCY
Any department, bureau, commission, board, or authority, of the Town or quasi-public authority of the Town. It shall also include any group of persons, corporations, organizations, or other entities, however created, which exercise governmental functions of the Town, other than in an advisory nature.
OFFICIAL
The members of the Town Council and School Committee, the Town Manager, members of all boards, commissions, committees and authorities whose members are appointed by the Town Council or School Committee, all department heads, and all persons serving in positions of whatever sort that are specifically established by the provisions of the Town Charter.
A. 
A person "represents" another person before a municipal agency if he or she is authorized by that other person to act, and does in fact act, as the other person's attorney-at-law or his or her attorney-in-fact in the presentation of evidence or arguments before that agency for the purpose of influencing the judgment of the agency in favor of that other person.
B. 
A person "represents" himself or herself before a municipal agency if he or she participates in the presentation of evidence or arguments before that agency for the purpose of influencing the judgment of the agency in his or her favor.
TOWN
The Town of Westerly.
TOWN FACILITY
Any structure or building owned, operated or managed by the Town or a municipal agency.
A. 
Coercion for trading with a particular business. It is unlawful for any official or employee of the Town or a municipal agency to discharge, threaten to discharge, discipline, threaten to discipline or otherwise discriminate against any other officer, official or employee for trading or not trading as a customer or patron with any particular business.
B. 
Use of public property. It is unlawful for an official or employee of the Town or a municipal agency to knowingly use property owned by the Town or an independent agency, including but not limited to vehicles, for his or her personal benefit, convenience or profit, except in accordance with policies promulgated by the council or by the governing body of the municipal agency owning the property.
C. 
Town Seal. It is unlawful for any person to fraudulently affix or impress the seal to or upon any certificate, instrument, commission, document or paper or with knowledge of its fraudulent character to use, buy, procure, sell or transfer to another person or entity any certificate, instrument, commission, document or paper, to or upon which the seal has been fraudulently affixed.
D. 
Activities relating to promotion or appointment. It shall be unlawful for any person seeking employment or promotion in the Town or a municipal agency to either directly or indirectly give, promise, or pay any money, service or other thing of value for, or on account of, in connection with or for the purpose of influencing or affecting their test, appointment, proposed appointment, promotion or proposed promotion.
E. 
Misuse of position. It is unlawful for an official or employee of the Town or municipal agency to intentionally use his or her official position to secure a special privilege or exemption for himself, herself or any other person.
F. 
Misuse of information. It is unlawful for an official or employee of the Town or a municipal agency to willfully or knowingly disclose any confidential or privileged information acquired by reason of the official's or employee's position, unless authorized or required by law to do so. Provided that nothing herein shall prohibit an official or employee from engaging in conduct protected by RIGL 28-50-1 et seq., known as the Rhode Island Whistle Blower's Protection Act.
G. 
No show jobs. It is unlawful for an official or employee of the Town or a municipal agency to knowingly employ a person with public funds who does not perform tasks which contribute substantially to the work of the government of the Town or a municipal agency or whose tasks are grossly disproportionate to the compensation received.
H. 
Outside work during business hours. No Town employee shall engage in any outside business or commercial activity during business hours of his or her Town position. All Town employees are assumed to be full-time, unless their personnel record or applicable personnel policies indicate otherwise.
I. 
Representing persons. It shall be unlawful for any official or employee of the Town or a municipal agency to act as agent or attorney for, or otherwise represent any person (except the Town or the municipal agency) before any court, or before any state, federal, or local agency, or any officer or employee thereof in connection with a particular matter:
(1) 
In which the Town or a municipal agency is a party or has a direct and substantial interest; and
(2) 
In which the employee or official participated personally and substantially as a Town official or employee; and
(3) 
Which involved a specific party or parties at the time of such participation; and
(4) 
Which is the same matter in which the official or employee participated as a Town official or employee.
J. 
Advising or consulting. It shall be unlawful for any official or employee of the Town or a municipal agency to aid, advise, counsel, consult or assist another person (except the Town or municipal agency) in connection with a particular matter:
(1) 
In which the Town or a municipal agency is a party or has a direct and substantial interest; and
(2) 
In which the employee or official participated personally and substantially as a Town official or employee; and
(3) 
Which involved a specific party or parties at the time of such participation; and
(4) 
Which is the same matter in which the official or employee participated as a Town official or employee.
A. 
Representing persons. It shall be unlawful for any person who was an official or employee of the Town or an municipal agency, for a period of one year after he or she has separated from the Town, to act as agent or attorney for, or otherwise represent any person (except the Town or the municipal agency) before any court, or before any state, federal, or local agency, or any officer or employee thereof in connection with a particular matter:
(1) 
In which the Town or a municipal agency is a party or has a direct and substantial interest; and
(2) 
In which the former employee or official participated personally and substantially as a Town official or employee; and
(3) 
Which involved a specific party or parties at the time of such participation; and
(4) 
Which is the same matter in which the official or employee participated as a Town official or employee.
B. 
Advising or consulting. It shall be unlawful for any person who was an official or employee of the Town or a municipal agency, for a period of one year after he or she has separated from the Town, to aid, advise, counsel, consult or assist another person (except the Town or municipal agency) in connection with a particular matter:
(1) 
In which the Town or a municipal agency is a party or has a direct and substantial interest; and
(2) 
In which the former employee or official participated personally and substantially as a Town official or employee; and
(3) 
Which involved a specific party or parties at the time of such participation; and
(4) 
Which is the same matter in which the official or employee participated as a Town official or employee.
C. 
Contracts, grants and subsidies. It shall be unlawful for any former employee or official of the Town or a municipal agency who participated personally and substantially in the negotiation of a municipal contract, grant or subsidy, including but not limited to a tax stabilization agreement or a tax increment financing arrangement valued at $100,000 or more, or who supervised the negotiation or award of such a contract to accept employment with a party to the contract (except the Town or municipal agency) or with the recipient of the grant or subsidy for a period of one year after such contract is signed or the grant or subsidy is awarded.
D. 
Confidential information. It shall be unlawful for any former employee or official of the Town or a municipal agency to disclose confidential or privileged information acquired during service as employee or official, unless authorized or required by law to do so.
E. 
Revolving door.
(1) 
It shall be unlawful for an elected official, while holding office and for a period of one year after leaving office, to seek or accept employment with any municipal agency, other than employment which was held at the time of the official's election or at the time of the enactment of this section, except as provided herein.
(2) 
In order to prevent or to manage significant problems, nothing contained herein shall prohibit the Town Manager or the Town Council from appointing any elected official to a senior policy making, discretionary, or confidential position on the Manager or the Council's staff, and in the case of the Manager, to a position as a department director or deputy director.
(3) 
Nothing contained herein shall be construed to prohibit an elected official from seeking or being elected to any other elective office.
(4) 
This subsection shall expire and be deemed repealed in the event the state makes the conduct described in Subsection E(1) hereof punishable as a crime, misdemeanor or offense.
A. 
Political activities while on duty. It is unlawful for an employee of the Town or an independent agency to take any active part in political management or in political campaigns during duty hours; provided that this section shall not be construed to prohibit an official or employee from voting as he or she may choose and from expressing his or her opinion on a political subject or candidate.
B. 
Restrictions on campaigning by Town employees. It is unlawful for any employee of the Town or a municipal agency during work hours or while wearing a uniform required for his or her employment to:
(1) 
Request or solicit, in person, that any individual contribute any time, money or other thing of value to any candidate, political party or political committee; or
(2) 
Solicit, in person, that any individual support or vote for any candidate, political party or political measure.
C. 
Soliciting contributions from Town employees. It is unlawful for any person to solicit political contributions from employees of the Town or a municipal agency during the employee's hours of employment.
D. 
Soliciting contributions in Town facilities. It is unlawful for a person to make, solicit, or knowingly accept any campaign contribution in a Town facility.
No person shall knowingly and intentionally provide assistance to or otherwise aid or abet any other person in violating any provision of this chapter.
Upon indictment, information or complaint and/or arraignment for a felony directly related to his or her employment, any Town employee may be suspended with or without pay, or transferred to another position. Upon conviction of or plea of nolo contendere to a felony related to his or her employment, a Town employee shall be dismissed immediately.
A. 
Civil penalties. Any person who intentionally or negligently violates the provisions of this chapter shall be liable in a civil action brought by the Town Solicitor in the municipal court for an amount up to $250 for each violation as well as the pecuniary value of any unjust enrichment realized by the violator, a family member of the violator or a business association of the violator as the result of his or her violation of this chapter.
B. 
Statute of limitations. No complaint may be made under this chapter except within five years after the violation alleged in the complaint has been committed.
C. 
Enforcement. The provisions of this chapter shall be enforced in compliance with collective bargaining agreements, the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights (RIGL 42-28.6-1 et seq.), and all pertinent employment and labor laws.
There is hereby created a Town Ethics Commission, the purpose of which is to provide a local forum for consideration, investigation and adjudication of alleged violations of this Code of Ethics and other ethical problems and issues that may arise.
A. 
Membership, terms and appointment.
(1) 
The Ethics Commission shall be composed of seven members, all of whom shall be residents of the Town and appointed by a majority vote of the Town Council. The members of the Commission shall appoint its own chairperson by a majority vote of the Commission.
(2) 
Members of the Commission shall serve four-year terms, except that of the members first appointed:
(a) 
The first three members appointed by the Council shall serve a two-year term.
(b) 
The fourth and fifth members appointed by the Council shall serve a three-year term.
(c) 
The sixth and seventh members appointed by the Council shall serve a four-year term.
(3) 
For the appointment of the Ethics Commission, authorities shall nominate individuals who have demonstrated the highest level of ethical standards in connection with their business, professional, occupational, financial or community commitments, and who possess the following qualifications: integrity, familiarity with government ethics issues, objectivity, common sense and compassion.
(4) 
No person shall serve more than two consecutive full four-year terms.
(5) 
No member shall be an elected or appointed official of the Town or a municipal agency, or hold or campaign for any elected office within the state, or have held an elected office within the Town or state within five years of his or her appointment.
(6) 
For a period of three years prior to appointment, no member shall hold office in any political party or hold office or be a member of a political committee.
(7) 
No member shall participate in or contribute to any political campaign for an elected office created by the charter for the Town.
(8) 
Any vacancy on the Ethics Commission occurring for any reason prior to the expiration of the member's term shall be filled for the unexpired term by the Town Council in the same manner as the original appointment.
(9) 
All vacancies on the Ethics Commission shall be filled within 30 days of the vacancy occurring.
(10) 
A supermajority vote of five members shall be required for action of the Ethics Commission.
(11) 
Four members of the Ethics Commission shall constitute a quorum.
(12) 
Ethics Commission members shall not be compensated.
(13) 
The Town shall provide suitable quarters for the Ethics Commission.
(14) 
The Town Solicitor shall be the chief legal advisor to the Ethics Commission and shall attend or designate a solicitor to attend all meetings of the Commission.
(15) 
In the event the solicitor is the subject of an ethics complaint, the Commission by a majority vote of its members, shall appoint a qualified attorney to serve as its interim chief legal advisor.
B. 
Duties and powers.
(1) 
Advisory opinions. Every official or employee when in doubt as to the application or interpretation of the Town ethics code to himself or herself in a particular context, may submit in writing the facts of the situation to the Ethics Commission for an advisory opinion to establish the standard for public duty. An advisory opinion shall be rendered by the Town Ethics Commission, and each such opinion (with identifying information redacted), shall be numbered, dated and published. Any advisory opinion rendered by the Commission, until amended or revoked by a majority vote of the Commission, shall be binding on the Town in any subsequent proceedings concerning the person who requested the opinion and who acted in reliance on it in good faith, unless material facts were omitted or misstated by the person in the request for the opinion. Nothing herein shall prevent any official or employee from seeking an advisory opinion from the state Ethics Commission on matters pertaining to the state code.
(2) 
Investigation. The Ethics Commission shall investigate any circumstance or situation of which the Ethics Commission may become aware that appears to violate or may potentially violate the Town ethics code. In furtherance of any such investigation, the Commission shall have the power to compel attendance of witnesses and require the production of evidence. The Ethics Commission shall create a written report setting forth the results of any investigation. If, following an investigation, the Ethics Commission concludes that it is probable that a violation of the Town ethics code has occurred, the Ethics Commission shall refer the matter to the Town Solicitor for review and potential prosecution in the Town Municipal Court. In the case of matters involving employees within the personnel system established by Town ordinances, the Ethics Commission shall also refer the matter to the Department of Human Resources for appropriate disciplinary action, subject to any applicable collective bargaining agreement. In the case of matters involving sworn personnel of the Police Department, the Ethics Commission shall refer the matter to the Chief of Police for appropriate disciplinary action, subject to the provisions of the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights[1] and any applicable collective bargaining agreement. Alternatively, the Commission may refer the matter to investigation by the state police. In the case of matters involving any other employees or officials not subject to the personnel system, the Ethics Commission shall also refer the matter to the appointing authority for appropriate disciplinary action.
[1]
Editor's Note: See RIGL 42-28.6-1 et seq.
(3) 
Conduct prohibited by the state ethics code. If the Ethics Commission becomes aware of any circumstance or situation which appears to violate or may potentially violate the state Code of Ethics, RIGL 36-14-1 et seq., the Ethics Commission shall report the matter to the state Ethics Commission.
(4) 
Unlawful conduct. If the Ethics Commission becomes aware of any circumstance or situation which appears to constitute a crime under the laws of the state, the Ethics Commission shall report the matter to the Town Solicitor who shall determine necessary referral to appropriate entities, including but not limited to the Attorney General's office, the Chief of Police, the Town Manager, and/or other appointing authority, for appropriate disciplinary action.
(5) 
Rules and regulations. The Commission shall promulgate rules and regulations as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter with advice from the Town Solicitor's office and consent from the Town Council.
(6) 
Recommendations to Council. If, as the result of its work, the Ethics Commission determines the need for remedial or preventative legislation, the Ethics Commission may make such recommendations to the Council as it deems appropriate.
(7) 
Report to Council. It shall be the duty of the Ethics Commission to submit to the Council an annual report of its work.
C. 
Assistance from branches of Town government. The Commission is authorized to call upon appropriate agencies and branches of Town government for such assistance as may be needed in the discharge of its duties. In the event that the solicitor's office has a conflict precluding its representation, it shall take appropriate steps to assure such representation for the Commission.