Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 5
February 23, 1999
Issued By: City Attorney’s Office
Whether a trip to examine the day to day operations of a privatized airport facility may be paid by a potential bidder should the City Council agree to privatize the airport of the City of
and related question. San Antonio
Councilmember Rick Vasquez has asked whether a Councilmember may accept a
trip by a third party to examine the day to day operations of a privatized
airport facility in
The Ethics Code defines "city official" to include, among others, members of the City Council. As a city official, a Councilmember is required to follow the standards of conduct as set out in the Ethics Code, including, but not limited to, recusing himself and disclosing any improper economic benefit and refraining from acceptance of a gift that tends to influence official action.
Part B. Section 1 states that, as a general rule, a City Councilmember may not take any official action that he knows is likely to affect substantially his economic interests or those of his spouse, among others. Given the facts presented, it does not appear that a Councilmember would benefit economically from this trip. However, should the Chamber or company pay for his spouse’s expenses, the benefits she receives are distinguishable from the benefits the public receives, and thus would be an improper economic benefit. Therefore, in this situation, a Councilmember would be required to recuse himself immediately and disclose the economic benefit in writing to the City Clerk should his spouse accompany him on said trip which was paid for by the third party.
Part B. Section 3
states that a Councilmember may not accept any gift that may influence or
reward official conduct or give the appearance of such. Arguably, a trip to
The Ethics Ordinance permits the "reimbursement of reasonable expenses for travel authorized in accordance with City policies." Such reimbursement must be reported in accordance with Part G. Section 4 which states that a Councilmember "who, in connection with his . . . official duties, accepts a trip . . . involving the gratuitous provision of transportation, accommodations, . . . paid for by a person or entity other than a public agency must file with the City Clerk, before embarking on the travel a disclosure statement." Provided the Councilmember follows the requisite policy for travel, compliance with the Ethics Code would be met.
Given the facts presented, a Councilmember may accept a trip to
FRANK J. GARZA