Ethics Commission Adopts Moratorium On Complaints For 90 Days Before General Election

Jul 19, 2016

The state Ethics Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt a moratorium on outside ethics complaints in the 90 days before a general election.

The moratorium is intended to discourage politically motivated complaints, although the commission reserves the right to launch its own investigations or complaints, commission spokesman Jason Gramitt said.

Common Cause of Rhode Island, Operation Clean Government, and the League of Women Voters supported the moratorium, Gramitt said.

But in a statement, the Rhode Island ACLU objected to the moratorium: “We are disappointed that the Rhode Island Ethics Commission has voted to keep Rhode Islanders from filing complaints about candidates for office until after the election has been decided. Preventing Rhode Islanders from filing legitimate complaints out of fear that some of the complaints filed may be frivolous leaves Rhode Islanders without redress during the time of year when the ability to hold public officials – and those who seek to become public officials – accountable is perhaps at its most critical.”

Voters will decide this November if they want to restore the Ethics Commission's conflict of interest oversight over the General Assembly.

The state Supreme Court stripped that oversight in a 2009 decision.

After years of impasse, lawmakers voted in the legislative session that ended in June to give voters the choice of strengthening the ethics commission. That came as part of a session marked by the resignation of former House Finance chairman Ray Gallison, as part of an ongoing law enforcement probe.

Lawmakers considered including the moratorium in the ballot measure. Opponents, including Common Cause, said the moratorium should be considered as a matter of the Ethics Commission's rules, not something enshrined in a constitutional amendment.

This post has been updated.