Mayor Joseph Polisena, who always strives for the betterment of Johnston from its employees to residents, recently hosted an important two-fold meeting inside the Senior Center.
Polisena held the high priority session, which included just about every department head for the Town of Johnston, to introduce Jason Gramitt, Esq., the recently-elected chairman of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission, who presented a 90-minute program that was centered on the Do's and Don’ts concerning all phases of the state’s ethics laws.
“This is the second Rhode Island Ethics Commission Seminar that my administration has put on,” Polisena explained to a large audience that included residents who work for other municipalities. “We do this to ensure that we all stay within the guidelines of the rules, regulations and laws of the Ethics Commission.”
Polisena went on saying “I’m sure situations may arise where you may have questions or concerns on performing your duties as a town employee, elected officials or board or commission member. As Mayor, I am very fortunate that our town has very hard working, dedicated and ethical individuals who work so very hard for all the citizens of Johnston.”
The mayor also noted that the presentation/seminar “will make it much clearer what we can and cannot do as public servants.”
Before introducing Gramitt, who came armed with a 14-page booklet that was produced for people to have a better understanding of the code of ethics, Polisena announced that each of the night’s attendees would receive an official certificate of participation by the RI Ethics Commission.
The mayor then announced that Gramitt, who is a staff attorney for the RI Ethics Commission, was being elevated to serve as the Executive Director/Chief prosecutor.
Gramitt then began his presentation that was an overview of the RI Code of Ethics and to lead public officials to consider ethical issues in the performance of their public service duties.
“The people of Rhode Island believe that public officials and employees must adhere to the highest standards of ethics conduct, respect the public trust and the rights of all persons,” Gramitt began. “Be open, accountable and responsive, avoid the appearance of impropriety, and not use the position for private gain or advantage.”
Throughout the session, Gramitt touched upon nepotism and favoritism, gifts, honoraria, properties – municipal and state – confidential information and outside employment, just to name a few.
He also told the audience to ask the question “Do I have a conflict of interest” that would include a person’s family, outside employer or even a business associate.
“If the answer is yes, then you have a conflict of interest and you must recuse from participation in that mater,” Gramitt said. “It’s important to keep in mind all those areas.”
Gramitt also explained how to recuse as well as making gifts the focal point of towards the midway part in his presentation.
Even Polisena, as well as several people who live in Johnston but work for the City of Providence, were among those who made queries during Gramitt’s question and answer portion that closed out what Polisena later noted was “a learning experience for all as we continue to serve all of the residents of Johnston.”