Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 11
March 8, 1999
Issued By: City Attorney’s Office
Whether a City employee may serve on the board of directors of his neighborhood association.
An employee in a City Department has asked whether he may serve as a member-at-large of the board of his neighborhood association. The following facts are presented:
ABC Neighborhood Association is a neighborhood association which interacts with various City departments including the Public Works Department and the San Antonio Police Department in its efforts to improve the neighborhood. An employee working in a City Department has been elected to a member-at-large position of this association. His job duties with the City include approving certification and inspecting sites, marketing, and acting as the liaison for agencies such as San Antonio Water Systems, City Public Service, and Kelly Air Force Base.
The issue is whether serving on the Board in this position violates the Code
of Ethics given his employment. Under the Ethics Code of the City of
Improper Economic Benefit. As a general rule, a City official may not take official action that he knows is likely to have an effect on the employee’s own economic interest or on the economic interest of a non-profit entity for which he serves as an officer. To have an economic effect, it must be distinguishable from the effect on the public in general. If the employee is required to take some official action that would benefit his neighborhood association, 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. In addition, an employee must notify his supervisor immediately of the conflict. The supervisor may, if necessary, reassign the responsibility to another employee. The matters outlined in the request would not be matters that would effect any official city action.
Unfair Advancement of Private Interests. Part B. Section 2 of the Code 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 City employee in the instant case must not use his position to advance the interests of ABC Neighborhood Association or give the impression of such. Failure to abide by this standard of conduct is a violation of the Ethics Code and subject to the penalties therein.
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, should ABC Neighborhood Association apply for any City program, the City employee must not divulge information confidential in nature, resulting from his position.
Representation of Private Interests. Part B. Section 5 of the Code addresses representation of private interests before the City. Section 5(b) prohibits an employee from representing for compensation "any person, group or entity, other than . . .himself, or . .his spouse or minor children, before the city." Under this section, the City employee must not represent ABC Neighborhood Association before the City for anything of value. The employee has stated that the position on the association is a non-paid one, and therefore, there should be no violation of this section.
An employee in a City Department may sit on the board of ABC Neighborhood Association, his neighborhood association. However, he must abide by the standards of conduct as set forth in the Ethics Code. This includes recusing himself and disclosing a potential conflict should one arise and ensuring that no unfair advantages are given to the association because of his position.
FRANK J. GARZA