City of San Antonio, Texas
Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 4
February 22, 1999
Issued By: City Attorney’s Office
May a State Representative appoint a San Antonio Municipal Court judge to serve on the Board of Directors of a Tax Increment Finance project that is brought forth by petition?
Intergovernmental Relations Department has asked whether a state representative may appoint a San Antonio Municipal Court judge, who has the authority to preside over Class "C" misdemeanors and violations of the San Antonio City Code, to serve on the Board of Directors of a tax increment finance ("TIF") project brought forth by petition.
The Tax Increment Financing Act provides for creation of a reinvestment zone to promote development or redevelopment of an area resulting from, among other things, the number of substandard structures. Section 311.005 of the Act allows such zone to be created by petition "by the owners of property constituting at least 50 percent of the appraised value of the property in the area." Once the area is so designated, a board of directors is established whose duties are to prepare a project plan and to adopt a financing plan detailing the use of the tax increment fund. Nine members constitute the board including, among others, the member of the state house of representatives in whose district the zone is located or his/her designee. This board has the duty to prepare and adopt a project plan and a reinvestment zone financing plan for the zone. Once the board has adopted a plan, the City Council must approve it by ordinance, presentation for which will be brought forth by the Economic Development Department.
The issue is whether a conflict of interest exists under the Ethics Code of the San Antonio should a State Representative designate a San Antonio Municipal Court judge to serve on the Board of Directors.
The Ethics Code defines "city official" to include, among others, Municipal Court judges. As a city official, a Municipal Court judge is required to follow the standards of conduct as set out in the Ethics Code, including, but not limited to, recusing himself/herself and disclosing an improper economic benefit or an unfair advancement of a private interest, refraining from improper disclosure or use of confidential information gathered by reason of his/her position, and abstaining from representation before the City for compensation. There is, however, no provision preventing the designation of a Municipal Court Judge to a TIF board, and no conflict of interest exists under the Ethics Code as long as the judge complies with the standards of conduct described in the Code as well as the Code of Judicial Conduct.
A state representative may designate a San Antonio Municipal Court judge to serve on a Tax Increment Finance Board of Directors. The judge must, however, comply with the requirements of the Ethics Code of the City of San Antonio and the Code of Judicial Conduct.
FRANK J. GARZA