By Associated Press - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A former lawmaker and statehouse attorney received a favorable opinion Tuesday from the Rhode Island Ethics Commission in his bid to become a judge.

Former state Rep. Timothy Williamson is the latest Rhode Island political figure to test an ethics code that is meant to deter government insiders from shuttling through a revolving door between state agencies.

The West Warwick Democrat served in the House of Representatives from 1993 to 2010 and began working in 2014 as a part-time attorney for the House Judiciary Committee.

He is one of five candidates for a vacancy at the District Court.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, who must nominate one of the candidates, asked Williamson in the fall to seek the opinion of the ethics commission after open government group Common Cause Rhode Island raised questions about his candidacy.

An advisory opinion that commissioners unanimously approved on Tuesday said Williamson is not blocked from the judgeship by the state’s ban on revolving-door appointments.

The law prohibits high-level state employees from seeking work at another state agency within a year after leaving their job, but commissioners said Williamson does not set policy or have direct, confidential access to legislative leaders in his part-time attorney role.

Williamson declined comment after the hearing.

He is the second former lawmaker in recent months to cite an exemption in the state’s revolving-door statute. The ethics commission is also investigating Raimondo’s hiring of former state Rep. Donald Lally Jr., who left office in March. Raimondo hired him in July before lending him to another department to work as a small business liaison.

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