Ethics commission provides guidance, expected opinion on hiring of councilor’s sister

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – Recusal from voting and discussion on matters involving a family member’s personal financial interest is all that is required to comply with Rhode Island ethics law, according to an advisory opinion issued this week regarding the appointment of Town Council President John Beauregard’s sister Tami Jacques to the position of deputy town clerk.

The opinion provided the councilor the guidance expected on the issue, after questions were raised during Jacques’ appointment to the position at the a meeting in May. Beauregard recused himself from voting on the hire, but Councilor Paul Vadenais said that a written opinion from the Rhode Island Ethics Commission was also required prior to the Jacques’ confirmation.

Jacques was hired in 2017 as assistant under Town Administrator Gary Ezovski, and later appointed to the position of recording clerk. She’s been chosen by Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski to fill the role of deputy clerk, following the promotion of former deputy clerk Joanne Buttie to the job of clerk.

“At the time of his recusal, a fellow member of the Town Council moved to table any Town Council action on the appointment, asserting that the petitioner was required by the Code of Ethics to take additional action beyond his recusal,” notes the opinion.

Beauregard, who had already obtained a verbal ethics opinion, appeared before the commission this month for discussion of the written advisory.

“They told me that I did the right thing,” said Beauregard. “I recused, and there was no other step. It was adequate.”

The lengthy advisory provides a list of circumstance in which Beauregard is, and is not, required to recuse himself in the future. The councilor cannot vote on matters involving supervision, evaluation, appointment, classification, promotion, transfer or discipline of his sister.

“A public official is not required to recuse pursuant to this or any other provision of the Code of Ethics when his family or household member is before his municipal agency solely in an official capacity as a duly authorized member or employee of another municipal agency, to participate in non-adversarial information sharing or coordination of activities between the two agencies, provided that the family member is not otherwise a party or participant, and has no personal financial interest, in the matter under discussion,” the opinion states.

The full advisory can be found here.

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