Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 79
September 4, 2003
May a City Council Administrative Assistant serve as a member of the Metropolitan Transit Authority?
II. Background Information
A part-time City Council Administrative Assistant has asked whether he may seek appointment to serve on the Board of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (VIA).
The Metropolitan Transit Authority manages and operates
the city’s transit system within
Members of all boards, commissions . . . and other bodies created by the City Council pursuant to federal or state law or City ordinance, including bodies that may be advisory only in nature; and board members of any entity who are appointed by the City Council to such board membership.
As one of the five at-large board members nominated and appointed by Council, the member would be a “city official” for purposes of the Ethics Code.
III. The City Charter and the Ethics Code
Section 141 of the City Charter states that
No officer or employee of the City shall have a financial interest, direct or indirect, in any contract with the City [.]. . . Any willful violation of this Section shall constitute malfeasance in office, and any officer or employee guilty thereof shall thereby forfeit his office or position.
Part B, Section 10(b) of the Code (currently codified in Ethics Code Section 2-52(b)) provides that, for purposes of Section 141 of the charter, an officer or employee has a prohibited “financial interest” in a contract with the City, if that person is a party to that contract. For purposes of this section, “city officers” include
[A] Member of any board or commission which is more than advisory in nature. The term does not include members of a board of another governmental entity even if some or all of these members are appointed by the city.
The Metropolitan Transit Board is one of the city’s official boards. The City Council nominates applicants and, from that group, appoints five at-large members. The board is more than advisory in nature since it manages and operates the city’s public transit system. Accordingly, any member appointed by City Council to this board is an officer for purposes of Section 141 of the City Charter and Part B, Section 10 of the Code (currently codified in Ethics Code Section 2-52). As a city officer, this person cannot have any interest in a contract with the city.
Aides to City Council members work pursuant to a contract to provide administrative services. Because the aide is a party to a contract with the city, the aide cannot simultaneously serve as a city officer as a member of the Metropolitan Transit Board. To do so would violate the prohibition against officers having a financial interest in a City contracts.
Therefore, a City Council administrative assistant cannot simultaneously work under contract with the city and become a member of a city board that is more than advisory in nature, such as the Metropolitan Transit Board. See Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 33 (A City Council Administrative Aide may not serve as a member of the Greater Kelly Development Corporation, which is more than advisory in nature).