Richard A. Licht would like to be a Rhode Island Superior Court judge. As a former lieutenant governor and state senator, as well as a prominent attorney in the Ocean State, he would seem to be as well-qualified as many other potential candidates.
But there is at least one reason that he should not be allowed to apply for the opening on the court that was created when Judge Judith Savage retired. Licht is currently the director of administration for Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee.
The state Code of Ethics states that a senior policymaking, discretionary or confidential position on the staff of any state elected official prohibits anyone from seeking or accepting any other state position for a period of one year. There is a good reason for this rule. Imagine the state Judicial Nominating Committee telling Mr. Licht that he is not the most-qualified candidate for the judgeship while he sits as the governor’s right-hand man.
This would not be an issue if the state Ethics Commission had done its job and told Mr. Licht that his current job keeps him from applying for the open seat at the moment. Unfortunately, it did not.
Former Gov. Donald L. Carcieri’s director of administration, Gary S. Sasse, in a Providence Journal story, said that he was surprised to know that he did not have a policymaking position in his former job. So are we.
Mr. Licht should do the right thing and not seek the job (the application deadline came after press time) until he has fulfilled the letter (and one would hope, the spirit) of the law and waited until he’s been out of his current position for one year. Otherwise, it would seem that no matter who is in office, the state’s well-earned reputation for ethical challenges will endure. •