Re: The 195 Redevelopment Commission Bill and the Ethics Commission

A few people that I have talked to about the proposed I-195 redevelopment commission law tell me that evading Ethics Committee jurisdiction is not as easy as I had originally thought it was.
The question of whether appointed commissioners would be subject to Ethics Commission jurisdiction over “state or municipal appointed officials“, despite the proposed saying that the commission is not part of any city or the state, brings the definitions section of the current Rhode Island Ethics law (36-14-2) into play…

(9) “State or municipal appointed official” means any officer or member of a state or municipal agency as defined herein who is appointed for a term of office specified by the constitution or a statute of this state or a charter or ordinance of any city or town or who is appointed by or through the governing body or highest official of state or municipal government;
So at the state level, anyone appointed by the Governor is subject to Ethics Committee jurisdiction, even if other parts of the law say that the board on which an appointee serves is separate from the state. That actually makes sense.
A second definition applies to the question of whether employees of the proposed commision would be covered by Ethics Commission jurisdiction over “employees of state and local government, of boards, Commissions, and agencies“. A more detailed definition of to whom this applies is also contained in section 36-14-2
(4) “Employees of state and local government, of boards, commissions and agencies” means any full time or part time employees in the classified, nonclassified and unclassified service of the state or of any city or town within the state, any individuals serving in any appointed state or municipal position, and any employees of any public or quasi-public state or municipal board, commission, or corporation;
The proposed redevelopment district is formally defined as “an independent public instrumentality and body corporate and politic” that includes a “commission” with “the powers to achieve the purposes” of the authorizing legislation. Can the individual words be pieced together to reach a conclusion, obvious enough for a Rhode Island court to accept, that the 195 redevelopment commission is a “public commission or corporation”, which the Ethics Commission obviously has jurisdiction over? I would hope that that the answer is yes, with the mention of “public” “boards” in the state’s ethics law recognized as meaning that the legislature doesn’t have the power to set-up free floating units of government — but even if this is indeed the case, there is still a lingering question of why our legislators feel the need to create so many layers of indirection, in order to develop the former highway land.

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