Per Texas Penal Code § 36.07, this opinion is limited to the acceptance of 
reimbursements for expenses incurred during volunteer activities.

City of San Antonio, Texas

 

Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 22

 

May 24, 1999

Issued By: City Attorney’s Office

 

Whether a City employee may accept honorariums or reimbursements of expenses incurred during volunteer activities.

 

A City employee in the Building Inspections Department has asked whether he may accept honorariums or reimbursements for expenses incurred during volunteer activities. The following facts are presented:

 

An employee in the Building Inspections Department is responsible for, among other things, developing and enforcing a program for the implementation of the City’s tree preservation ordinance. On occasion, the employee makes presentations to organizations regarding various landscaping issues. For said services, the employee may be presented honorariums in amounts less than $25.00 and/or may be directly reimbursed for expenses incurred during these volunteer activities.

 

The issue is whether the employee may accept such honorariums and/or expense reimbursements given his position with the City. Under the Ethics Code of the City of San Antonio, all City employees, whether part-time or full-time, are required to follow the standards of conduct as set forth in the Code.

 

Gifts. Part B. Section 3[1] states that an employee may not accept any gift that may influence or reward official conduct or give the appearance of such. A gift is defined as "a voluntary transfer of property (including the payment of money) or the conferral of a benefit having pecuniary value, unless consideration of equal or greater value is received by the donor." The employee makes presentations to various organizations, services that amount to a greater consideration for the donors. Given that neither the honorariums nor the direct reimbursements are gifts as defined herein, the employee may accept such monies subject to the remaining standards of conduct of the Code.

 

Conflicting Outside Employment. Generally, a City employee may not engage in outside employment, which may influence the performance of the employee’s official duties. More specifically, "a City ... employee shall not provide services to an outside employer related to the . . . employee’s City duties." If the services the employee provides are related to his duties with the Building Inspections Department, he may not provide such services to an outside employer. However, according to the employee, the presentations made are done on a volunteer basis, which may at times be compensated in the form of an honorarium or a reimbursement of expenses. Because the employee is neither employed by these organizations nor providing services related to his position with the City, there is no violation of this section of the Code.

 

SUMMARY

 

City employees are governed by the standards of conduct as set forth in the Ethics Code of the City of San Antonio. Pursuant to said standards, a City employee may not, among other things, accept anything of value which may influence the employee’s official conduct or which gives the appearance of such. Under the facts presented, neither the honorariums nor the reimbursements are gifts as defined in the Code, and therefore, a City employee may accept honorariums or reimbursements of expenses incurred during volunteer activities provided the services are commensurate with the honorarium.

 

 

 

 

FRANK J. GARZA

City Attorney

 



[1]   Currently codified in Ethics Code Section 2-45