Continuing his efforts to increase the ability for state prosecutors to effectively prosecute public corruption in Rhode Island, Attorney General Kilmartin announced today that he will refile three pieces of legislation that would create and define specific acts of public corruption, increase the statute of limitations on specific public corruption crimes, tackle the issue of "pay to play," and codify into law a specialized prosecution unit for public corruption.
This is not the first attempt by the Attorney General to strengthen the state's public corruption laws. He has filed each of these bills every year since being elected Attorney General.
"Political corruption has a corrosive effect on our State. When an elected official is arrested and charged, the public's trust in our system erodes. Each political scandal further undermines this trust and cynicism flourishes. Rhode Islanders have seen too much and are rightly tired of it," said Attorney General Kilmartin
"As the Attorney General and as someone who has dedicated a career to public service, I am outraged to see people in positions of power violate the public trust out of arrogance, greed or a warped sense of entitlement. Let me be clear—the majority of those working in public service are good people. They have chosen to serve for all of the right reasons—to improve their communities and the lives of their constituents. Despite their good intentions, their good work is tarnished by the few who forget they serve the public and not their own personal agendas. These measures are meant to empower the men and women who do serve for the right reasons and will reinforce to the public that political corruption and influence peddling will not be tolerated," added Kilmartin.
One of his legislative initiatives would make crimes against the public trust punishable by law and gives greater authority to revoke a pension for a public official who commits any felony through the use or attempted use of their position.
The legislation would create a new chapter within Title 11 entitled "Crimes Against the Public Trust." Based on the Model Penal Code, the chapter would create new offenses of "Bribery in Official and Political Matters," "Selling Political Endorsements – Special Influence," "Speculating or Wagering on Official Action or Information," and "Theft of Honest Services." Those found guilty would be subject to a felony and face imprisonment of up to 10 years and a fine of not less than ten thousand dollars $10,000 and not more than $150,000.
Further, it ensures that public servants who are convicted of any felony or misdemeanor or attempted felony or misdemeanor, that was knowingly committed while in an official capacity, would be liable for the restitution to the state or municipality, as appropriate, of anything of value received by them in the course of such violation.
The legislation also seeks to amend RIGL 36-10.1-2 to provide potential pension revocation for any public officer or employee who commits any felony through the use or attempted use of their position. Currently, revocation can only be contemplated if the person commits a felony with the intent to defraud and the person realizes or attempts to realize an advantage for themselves or another. Another provision of the bill would extend the statute of limitations for violations of the new chapter from three years to 10 years.
Kilmartin also seeks to prohibit state and municipal vendors that contract, in the aggregate, annually more than $25,000 from making contributions to either political committees of the officeholder who awarded the contract or to any candidate for such office. This ban is effective for the duration of the officeholder's term or for two years after the termination or expiration of the contract, whichever is longer. Further, the act prohibits state and municipal vendors whose pending bids for state or municipal contracts or whose total of pending bids and contracts with the state or a municipality total more than $25,000 from making contributions to political committees of the officeholder who awards the contract or candidate for such office.
A third bill would codify into law the Public Corruption and White Collar Crime Unit within the Department of Attorney General. The unit will be charged with investigating and prosecuting abuses of the public trust, cooperating with local, state and federal officials and establishes a whistleblower hotline.