City of San Antonio, Texas

 

Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 55

 

May 18, 2001

Issued By: City Attorney’s Office

 

 

Whether a City employee may serve on the Alameda Museum Board.

 

An employee of a City Department has asked whether he may serve on the Alameda Museum Board.  The following facts are presented:

 

The Office of Cultural Affairs “provides leadership and resources for arts and cultural development” for the City of San Antonio.  Recently, an employee of the office has been asked to serve on the Alameda Museum Board.  The employee, a Program Manager, is responsible for, among other things, implementing and managing all phases of programs that are funded on the local, state, and federal level.  This may include, but is not limited to, interpreting the terms of contracts between the City and the programs. Currently, Centro Alameda, Inc. is receiving funds from the City’s 1999 General Obligation Bond Funds for the payment of construction related costs and expenses for the renovation of the Centro de Artes Building.  The Asset Management Department is monitoring this funding and is responsible for its evaluation.

 

The issue is whether the employee may serve on the board of the Alameda Museum Board given his position with the City.  The Ethics Code defines a “city employee” as “any person listed on the City of San Antonio payroll as an employee, whether part-time or full-time.”  As a city employee, the individual is required to follow the standards of conduct as set out in the Ethics Code.

 

Improper Economic Benefit.  As a general rule, a City employee may not take any official action that he knows is likely to have an effect on, among others, his economic interest or the economic interest of a nonprofit entity on which the official serves in a policy making position.  Should such occur, the employee is required to recuse himself immediately, refraining from any further participation in the matter, and disclose in writing to the City Clerk the economic benefit.  Therefore, if an issue involving the Board requires action by the City employee in his position as a program manager, he must recuse himself from any and all discussions, including voting. Moreover, he must disclose the situation to the City Clerk’s Office and his supervisor.

 

Unfair Advancement of Private Interests.  Part B, Section 2 of the Code[1] prohibits all City employees from using their position “to unfairly advance or impede private interests, or to grant or secure, or attempt to grant or secure, for any person (including himself [ ]) any form of special consideration, treatment, exemption, or advantage beyond that which is lawfully available to other persons.”  Under this section, the employee must not use his position as the program manager to advance the interests of the Alameda Museum Board or give the impression of such. Therefore, it is advised that, if a matter of the Board comes before the program manager in his official position with the City, the program manager recuse and disclose the matter, thereby eliminating any perception of impropriety.

 

Confidential Information.  All City employees are prohibited from using their position to obtain confidential information for purposes other than the performance of their duties and/or from intentionally or knowingly disclosing such information gained as a result of their position.  Pursuant to that end, the employee must refrain from disclosing information received in his position to aid the Board in obtaining favorable treatment from the City, including funding.

 

Representation of Private Interests. Part B, Section 5[2] of the Code prohibits City employees from representing private interests before their City body and/or for compensation. Therefore, the individual may neither represent the Board before his department or before any member of City Council or City staff nor assert his position in approval of any project between the City and the Board.

 

SUMMARY

 

A City employee must abide by the standards as set forth in the Ethics Code, including recusal and disclosure, in order to serve on the Alameda Museum Board. Provided the employee abides by the City’s Ethics rules, there is no prohibition on serving on the board.

 

 

 

 

FRANK J. GARZA

City Attorney



[1]   Currently codified in Ethics Code Section 2-44

[2]   Currently codified in Ethics Code Section 2-47