§ 36-14-13. Adjudicative powers of the commission.
(a) The commission is hereby empowered to adjudicate the merits of allegations of violations of the Rhode Island code of ethics.
(1) At such a hearing the commission shall have the power to compel the attendance of witnesses, require the production of evidence, and take oral or written evidence under oath or affirmation;
(2) Each party shall have the right to be represented by legal counsel; to conduct discovery pursuant to rules, adopted by the commission in the exercise of its rulemaking authority, which shall provide for the prompt and early exchange of relevant information and otherwise protect each party from unfair surprise during the course of the proceedings; to compel attendance of witnesses; to examine and cross examine opposing witnesses; to introduce exhibits and otherwise to present any matters to the commission relevant to the complaint;
(3) Oral evidence shall be taken only on oath or affirmation;
(4) There shall be a presumption of innocence on the part of any person alleged to have violated the provisions of this chapter and the burden of proving that the person has violated the provisions of this chapter shall be upon those who allege the violation or violations;
(5) The hearing shall be open to the public;
(6) Objections to the introduction of evidence may be made and shall be noted in the record;
(7) A stenographic record shall be made of all hearings conducted under the provisions of this section;
(8) At the conclusion of proceedings concerning an alleged violation, the commission shall immediately begin deliberations on the evidence and then proceed to determine whether there has been a knowing and willful violation of this chapter;
(9) No persons, other than members of the commission, and independent legal counsel for the limited purpose provided for herein, shall be present during the deliberations of the commission following any hearing conducted under this section. Counsel may not participate in deliberations of the commission. Counsel's sole function shall be to respond to questions of law posed by commission members. A written record shall be maintained of the questions posed to counsel and counsel's responses, which shall become part of the record of proceedings.
(b) In order for the commission to hold a hearing there must be a quorum of five (5) members. For every two (2) members who must recuse themselves from taking part in a hearing due to a conflict, the number needed for a quorum shall be reduced by one.
(c) In order for the commission to find that there has been a knowing and willful violation of this chapter it shall be necessary that a majority of those commissioners who attended all hearings, but in no case fewer than three (3) of the members of the commission shall vote in the affirmative to so find.
(d) The commission, upon a finding pursuant to this section that there has been a violation of this chapter, shall issue an order by which it may:
(1) Require that the violator cease and desist violating the provisions of this chapter;
(2) Require that the violator file any report, statement, or other information as required by this chapter;
(3) Require that the violator pay a civil penalty of not more than twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) for each violation of this chapter and the pecuniary value of any unjust enrichment realized by the violator as the result of his or her violation of this chapter;
(4) Refer the entire record of its proceedings to the attorney general; and/or
(5) Remove the violator from his or her office or position in accordance with the provisions of § 36-14-14, provided the violator is not subject to impeachment.
(e) The commission shall, in the exercise of the rulemaking authority conferred by § 36-14-9(a)(3), promulgate rules and regulations, consistent with the provisions of this section, for the conduct of adjudicative hearings before any adjudicative panel of the commission.
(f) Except in those cases referred to the attorney general pursuant to subsection (d)(4) of this section, a final decision of the commission and the record of proceedings before the commission upon which the final decision is based shall be made public by the commission within thirty (30) days after the final decision is rendered.
(g) The commission, upon a finding pursuant to this section that there has not been a violation of this chapter, shall issue an order dismissing the complaint, and if it finds the complaint to be frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless, the commission shall require the person filing the complaint to pay a civil penalty of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), all or part of which may be paid to the subject of the complaint in reimbursement of said subject's reasonable expense of defense.
(P.L. 1987, ch. 195, § 3; P.L. 1992, ch. 131, § 1; 1992, ch. 436, § 1; P.L. 1998, ch. 256, § 1.)