The Code of Ethics Applies to Woonsocket

Following up on Jim Hummel’s discovery of Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt’s friends-and-family jobs program, the mayor’s actions look like they violate at least three provisions of the state Code of Ethics.  The first is directly in the relevant statute of the Rhode Island General Laws, specifically section 36-14-5(d):

No person subject to this Code of Ethics shall use in any way his or her public office or confidential information received through his or her holding any public office to obtain financial gain, other than that provided by law, for him or herself or any person within his or her family, any business associate, or any business by which the person is employed or which the person represents.

Broadly, the argument can be made that the mayor revived a jobs program to benefit her son.  The argument can also be made that the existence of the program was essentially privileged information that the mayor shared only with her son’s baseball team.

Section (h) of the same statute drives the point home, but would specifically be a violation by the mayor’s son:

No person subject to this Code of Ethics and or any person within his or her family or business associate of the person or any business entity in which the person or any person within his or her family or business associate of the person has a ten percent (10%) or greater equity interest or five thousand dollars ($5,000) or greater cash value interest, shall enter into any contract with any state or municipal agency unless the contract has been awarded through an open and public process, including prior public notice and subsequent public disclosure of all proposals considered and contracts awarded; provided, however, that contracts for professional services which have been customarily awarded without competitive bidding shall not be subject to competitive bidding if awarded through a process of public notice and disclosure of financial details.

That isn’t to say that the Lisa Baldelli-Hunt can get away with hiring her son.  Under the regulatory provisions of the code, regulation 36-14-5004(b)(2)(A) addresses this circumstance directly:

No person subject to the Code of Ethics shall participate in the supervision, evaluation, appointment, classification, promotion, transfer or discipline of any person within his or her family or a household member, in the state or municipal agency in which the official or employee is serving or over which he or she exercises fiscal or jurisdictional control, except in accordance with particular instructions and advice received from the Ethics Commission in a written advisory opinion.

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