State Republican Party files ethics complaint over Raimondo hiring a former state lawmaker

The Rhode Island Republican Party filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission on Wednesday over the administration's hiring of a former state representative.

Party chairman Brandon Bell said he lodged the complaint because Gov. Gina Raimondo's hiring of former Rep. Donald Lally Jr. is exactly what state law seeks to prevent.

"The cronyism needs to stop," he said. "That's what Gina Raimondo campaigned on."

Raimondo, a Democrat, hired Lally for her staff in July, then lent him to the Department of Business Regulation to work as a liaison to small businesses. Lally resigned from office in March.

The state's ethics code is made up of statutes enacted by the General Assembly and regulations enacted by the Ethics Commission.

There is both a "revolving door" statute and a regulation to prohibit General Assembly members from accepting state employment for one year after leaving office. The statute has an exception for senior policymakers on the governor's staff. The commission's regulation is stricter and doesn't contain the same exception.

If there is a conflict between a statute and a regulation, the Ethics Commission would enforce its own regulation, according to Jason Gramitt, staff attorney for the commission.

Neither Lally nor the administration sought an advisory opinion from the commission about the job offer, Gramitt said. The commission accepted the complaint against Lally and will likely review it at its meeting Tuesday, he added.

Messages left for Lally at his law office seeking comment were not immediately returned. Lally, a Democrat, represented Narragansett and South Kingstown. He was first elected in 1989.

The public interest group Common Cause Rhode Island also considered filing a complaint, according to its executive director.

"We see members of the assembly using their office as an advantage in seeking state jobs as a problem," John Marion said. "That's really the thrust of why you have a revolving-door prohibition."

A Raimondo spokeswoman said Lally was hired full-time by the governor's office for his extensive business experience and understanding of how government works.