Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 57

January 9, 2002

Issued By: City Attorney’s Office

 

Whether a City employee may teach classes at local colleges and universities and related question.

An employee has asked whether he may teach classes at local colleges and universities and whether he may provide training to an organization that is in partnership with the City to provide child care services. The following facts are presented:

The Children’s Resources Division, Child Care Delivery System (CCDS) handles agreements with over 500 licensed child care programs and provides training to child caregivers. A supervisor in this division is responsible for, among other things, overseeing the Quality Initiatives program and supervising 12 Vendor Management staff. The supervisor also serves on many committees with staff from local colleges and universities and teaches Child Development classes at these colleges. Several of the students in the classes are also CCDS providers.

The individual has expressed an interest in training on Quality Child Care practices for Smart Start for Teachers. Currently, the City is subject to a Memorandum of Understanding between Family Service Association of San Antonio, Inc. (FSA) and the City’s Department of Community Initiatives, Children’s Resources Division (CRD) which defines the roles of each party. Under the terms of the MOU, the CRD is responsible for, among other things, "coordinat[ing] and work[ing] closely with FSA to maximize effectiveness of the [Quality Initiatives Assistance]: [Child Care Training] and [Early Childhood Development Resources] services, and to develop and refine initiatives promoting infant/toddler and school age care, and resource and referral activities." The issues are whether the individual may accept payment for teaching the college courses and whether the individual may provide training on child care practices for Smart Start.

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 his outside employer. 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 one of the local colleges and/or universities at which the employee provides services requires action by the City employee in his position as a supervisor in the CRD, he must recuse himself from any and all discussions, and disclose the matter to the City Clerk’s Office and his supervisor. He is not, however, required to recuse and disclose on an official action involving one of his students.

Unfair Advantage of Private Interest. 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." This section requires the supervisor to treat all CCDS providers equally, and, as such, those CCDS providers who are also students of the employee in the college setting should neither receive favorable or unfavorable treatment through the CCDS Program.

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. Therefore, the employee may neither garner nor disclose such information to anyone, including any outside employer.

Representation of Private Interest. Part B, Section 5(b)[2] prohibits a City employee from representing any entity, other than himself, his spouse, or minor children, before the City. Representation before the City includes actions by word or conduct made to induce either the City Council and/or City staff to take action on behalf of the outside entity. Pursuant to this section, the City employee may not request City Council and/or City staff to take action on behalf of any local college and/or university by which he is employed.

Conflicting Outside Employment. Generally, a City employee may not engage in outside employment that may influence the performance of his official duties. More specifically, "a City . . . employee shall not provide services to an outside employer related to the . . . employee’s City duties." In determining what services conflict with the employee’s City duties, both the skills of the employee and the projects he is involved with must be examined. Conflicts arise where the skills and projects of the outside employer require action by the City employee that compromise the skills and projects he provides the City.

One of the essential job functions of a child care supervisor is to assist individuals with child care needs and planning. This includes, but is not limited to, supervising, training and evaluating client services staff. The supervisor is also responsible for monitoring files and providing technical assistance on billing and other related items. Although training of client services staff may be a minimal requirement of the supervisor, the training for such results from the same agreement under which the supervisor provides technical assistance, equipment, and materials. Arguably, the two (2) job functions intertwine such that the services the City employee would provide to Smart Start are related to his duties with the City and may compromise such duties. This would be a violation of the Ethics Code, and, therefore, employment with Smart Start should not be pursued.

Teaching child care classes at the local colleges and universities, on the other hand, is a project that appears to be unrelated to the project for which the employee performs work on by virtue of his City employment. Moreover, teaching a class is a service that is distinct from training individuals. Therefore, the employee may engage in this outside employment provided he receives written approval from the Department director prior to engaging in said employment.

Public Property and Resources. Part B, Section 7 of the Code[3] prohibits City employees from using "City facilities, personnel, equipment or supplies for private purposes." Pursuant to this section, the employee may neither use City of San Antonio equipment in his outside employment nor perform any such work on City of San Antonio time. It is the understanding of this office that the services provided to the local colleges and universities are performed at night or on Saturdays and do not interfere with the employee’s duties with the City. As such, there is no violation of this section.

Prohibited Interest in Contract. Part B, Section 10[4] prohibits City employees from having a financial interest in a contract with the City or its agencies including the SAWS or CPS. Under this section, a City employee is "any employee of the City who is required to file a financial disclosure statement pursuant to Section 1(a) of Part G[5]." Because the employee is not a City employee as defined in this section, this section does not apply.

 

SUMMARY

City employees are governed by the standards of conduct set forth in the Ethics Code of the City of San Antonio. Pursuant to said standards, an employee must obtain written approval from the Department Director prior to engaging in outside employment, employment which must not be related to his duties with the City.

Because teaching college classes is a project and a services unrelated to the employees duties with the City, he may engage in such outside employment provided he obtain the proper permission. The employee may not, however, pursue outside employment where the job functions for City employment and the outside employer are not only similar in nature but also result from the same agreement.

Moreover, the employee must remain cognizant of all of the standards of conduct, many of which are discussed in this opinion. This includes, but is not limited to, the requirement to recuse and disclose where official action as a City employee is to be made on his outside employer.

 

 

 

 

STEVEN ARRONGE

Acting City Attorney



[1]   Currently codified in Section 2-44

[2]   Currently codified in Ethics Code Section 2-47(b)

[3]   Currently codified in Ethics Code Section 2-49

[4]   Currently codified in Ethics Code Section 2-52

[5]   Currently codified in Ethics Code Section2-73(a)