PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The state Ethics Commission will consider on Dec. 21 whether state law bars outgoing House Finance Committee Chairman Steven M. Costantino from taking a post as secretary of the Office of Health & Human Services in Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee's administration next year, according to Katherine D'Arezzo, the ethics panel's senior staff attorney.
Chafee has offered Costantino, who lost his bid for mayor this year, the $123,329-a-year job, if the Ethics Commission gives the okay.
The commission had been planning to meet Dec. 14 to take up the matter.
Earlier this month, Costantino asked the commission whether the state's so-called revolving door law prevents him from taking a senior-level job in the Chafee administration.
State law and a related Ethics Commission regulation say that no member of the General Assembly "shall seek or accept state employment, not held at the time of the member's election, while serving in the General Assembly and for a period of one year after leaving legislative office."
But Costantino, in his letter, noted that the law also says: "Nothing contained herein shall prohibit any general officer or the General Assembly from appointing any state elected official to a senior policy-making, discretionary or confidential position on the general officer's or the General Assembly's staff, and in the case of the governor, to a position as a department director.
Costantino, who said Wednesday morning that he is still interested in the OHHS post, says he believes that exemption clears the way for his appointment.
Created by outgoing Republican Governor Carcieri in a 2004 executive order, the Office of Health & Human Services is a $7.2-million arm of state government that, on paper, has 75 employees overseeing five state departments: Health; Human Services; Children, Youth and Families; Elderly Affairs; and the state hospitals.
The secretary is currently Gary Alexander, who earns $135,661 a year, and doubles as director of the state Department of Human Services, which runs Rhode Islands's welfare and subsidized child and health-care programs.