Former state representative Tim Williamson argues in a letter to the state Ethics Commission that Rhode Island's revolving door law doesn't apply to him.
In a letter dated December 4, Williamson seeks an advisory opinion on whether anything in the Code of Ethics bars him from seeking or accepting a judicial post, due to his part-time work as a lawyer for the House Judiciary Committee.
"I feel that since I am not a senior policy making official, nor am I neither a confidential nor discretionary employee that this portion of law does not apply to me at this time," Williamson writes in his letter to the Ethics Commission, citing exemptions to the state's revolving door law.
The former rep from West Warwick is one of five candidates for a district court judicial vacancy created by the retirement of Frank Cenerini. The other candidates are Paul Ragosta, Alan Goulart, Brian Goldman, and Thomas Briody.
Williamson is a partner in the West Warwick law firm of Inman Tourgee & Williamson. He served in the House from 1993 to 2010.
Williamson's interest in the district court judicial post has sparked attention due to his status as a former lawmaker, and how many former lawmakers and legislative staffers have moved on to become magistrates and judges. In addition, WJAR-TV, Channel 10, recently reported on Williamson's past brushes with the law.
In his letter to the Ethics Commission, Williamson states that he has "always believed in the power of public service," and he points to precedents in arguing that he is not subject to the state's revolving door law.
Common Cause of Rhode Island executive director John Marion, who called on Williamson to seek an advisory opinion, praised the ex-lawmaker for taking that step.
"We are glad to see that Mr. Williamson is seeking an advisory opinion even though it is over three months since we made the suggestion," Marion said via email. "Our review of past advisory opinions suggests he may have a difficult time receiving a pass through the revolving door, though each case is fact specific so it's difficult to pre-judge (no pun intended) where the Commission will come out on this case. We continue to believe the revolving door is an important law for ensuring that applicants for this, and all positions, don't have a leg up in the process by virtue of their current job."
Governor Gina Raimondo came under fire earlier this year when her administration hired ex-rep Don Lally of Narragansett in July, four months after he left the legislature. A revolving door complaint against Lally remains under review by the Ethics Commission.
Raimondo's spokeswoman, Marie Aberger, declined to offer specific details on when the governor plans to make her judicial selections, and what criteria she will use in making them.
"The governor will be evaluating all of the candidates to send to the Senate in next year’s session," Aberger said in a statement to RIPR. "She will be making her selection based on who would be the best fit for the busy District Court and the thousands of Rhode Islanders that court serves. The governor has not started any interviews yet. When she begins this process, she will thoroughly evaluate all information provided on potential candidates."