City of San Antonio, Texas

 

Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 26

 

June 16, 1999

Issued By: City Attorney’s Office

 

 

Whether an individual who sits on the Greater Kelly Development Corporation may lobby members of the City Council.

 

A question has been posed as to whether a member of the Greater Kelly Development Corporation may represent a client before the City Council. The following facts are presented:

 

Resolution No. 96-03-01, passed and approved on January 18, 1996, established the creation of the Greater Kelly Development Corporation ("GKDC"). The GKDC is responsible for overseeing the redevelopment of Kelly Air Force Base as it moves from public operation to private ownership. A member of this board has lobbied members of the City Council on behalf of a client regarding a concession contract, an issue unrelated to those before the GKDC.

 

The issue is whether a board member may lobby members of the City Council given his position on the GKDC. Although Part A. Section 2[1]. of the Code of Ethics states that an "official" includes, among others, "members of all boards, commissions (except the Youth Commission whose members are minors), committees, and other bodies created by the City Council pursuant to federal or state law or City ordinance, including entities that may be advisory only in nature," a member of GKDC is not subject to the standards of conduct as set forth in the Code. He must, however, adhere to Chapter 171 of the Texas Local Government Code, pursuant to Section 4 of Resolution No. 96-03-01.

 

Texas Local Government Code. Chapter 171 of the Texas Local Government Code regulates conflicts of interest of officers of local governmental entities, which are more than advisory in nature. A local governmental entity includes the GKDC. Section 171.004 of the Code prohibits a local public official from taking official action on a matter in which he has a substantial interest in a business entity or in real property that is distinguishable from the effect on the public. Should such occur, the local public official is required to recuse himself immediately, refraining from any further participation in the matter, and file an affidavit with the entity’s official record-keeper.

 

Under this chapter, a member of the GKDC is a local public official as defined therein. As such, he must refrain from taking official action on any matter in which he has a substantial interest. Should one arise, the member must recuse himself and file an affidavit with the GKDC’s official record keeper. There appears to be no violation in the instant case because the issue for which the member represented his client was not one before the GKDC. Therefore, no official action was necessary.

 

Lobbying. Under the Ethics Code of the City of San Antonio, lobbying is subject to the regulations as contained therein. Lobbying is defined as "any oral or written communication . . . to a city official, made . . . by any person in an effort to influence or persuade an official to favor or oppose . . . from taking action on any municipal question." Part E of the Ethics Code[2] requires any individual who engages in lobbying to register as a lobbyist with the City Clerk’s Office, if, within a calendar quarter, he receives or expends $1,000 in an attempt to influence City officials’ actions on a City contract. Provided he complies with the requirements under Part E[3] of the Code as well as adheres to the regulations of conflicts of interest under Chapter 171 of the Texas Local Government Code, a member of the GKDC may lobby members of the Council.

 

SUMMARY

 

Under the Ethics Code of the City of San Antonio, there is no legal impediment preventing an individual who is a board member of the Greater Kelly Redevelopment Corporation from lobbying members of the City Council on behalf of a client. He must, however, abide by the standards of conduct as set forth in Chapter 171 of the Texas Local Government Code as well as comply with the requirements set forth for lobbyists in the City’s Ethics Code. This requires registration as a lobbyist where the member has, within a calendar quarter, earned or expended $1,000 in an attempt to influence City officials’ actions on a City contract[4].

 

 

 

FRANK J. GARZA

City Attorney

 



[1]   Currently codified in Ethics Code Section 2-42(u)

[2]   Currently codified in Ethics Code Division 5 (Lobbyists) Section 2-63

[3]   Currently codified in Ethics Code Division 5 (Lobbyists)

[4]   Please refer to Division 5 (Lobbyists) for the current requirements as the section on Lobbyists has been substantially updated since this opinion was written.