Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 105
March 7, 2006
Issued By: City Attorney’s Office
May a city staff member accept the payment of expenses for an out-of-state trip paid for by a federal governmental entity?
A federal governmental entity has offered to pay for expenses
for a city staff member to attend its meeting in
III. Ethics Code and State Penal Code
A. The Employee May Accept the Payment of Reasonable Travel-Related Expenses
The inquiry indicates that the event to which the city employee has been invited is related to the issues and subject matters handled by the employee in his regular course of business. A city official or employee may accept reasonable travel, accommodation or other travel-related expenses paid for by an outside entity to cover the costs of attending a business-related event. Reasonable expenses are the level of expenses the city would pay if the city were funding the event. Expenses beyond that amount, especially for entertainment, would be treated and reportable as personal gifts. Ethics Code, Section 2-45(b)(2); Ethics Code, Section 2-76.
B. The Employee May Not Accept the Honorarium
Section 36.07 of the Penal Code states:
(a) A public servant commits an offense if the public servant solicits, accepts, or agrees to accept an honorarium in consideration for services that the public servant would not have been requested to provide but for the public servant's official position or duties.
The Texas State Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion 125 concluded
that this provision prohibits public servants in
C. Travel Report not Required Because Expenses are Paid by Public Agency
Under Section 2-76 of the Ethics Code, any city official or employee who, in connection with his or her official duties, accepts a trip or excursion involving the gratuitous provision of transportation, accommodations, entertainment, meals, or refreshments paid for by a person or entity other than a public agency must file with the City Clerk, before embarking on the travel. Since the federal organization is a public agency, the employee is not required to file the city’s Travel Report reflecting the travel-related expenses.
The employee may accept payment of travel and accommodation expenses in connection with travel to this event sponsored by the federal organization. Since the expenses are being paid by a public agency, no travel report is required. Assuming the employee has been invited to participate because of his position with the city, the employee is prohibited from accepting the honorarium for the services provided