Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 117
Issued By: City Attorney’s Office
May a city employee accept contract with the city to provide consultation services?
A city employee works for a city department providing editing and design services for that department’s website. The employee learned of an opportunity to contract with the city to provide artistic services to another department. The employee inquires whether she may respond to the Request for Qualification (RFQ) and accept a contract, if offered, with the city.
III. The City Charter and the Ethics Code – Prohibited Interests in Contracts
Section 141 of the City Charter provides:
No officer or employee of the City shall have a financial interest, direct or indirect, in any contract with the City, or shall be financially interested, directly or indirectly, in the sale to the City of any land, materials, supplies, or service, except on behalf of the City as an officer or employee.
The prohibition is reiterated in Section 2-52 of the city’s Ethics Code. Section 2-52 defines “employees” who are subject to this prohibition as “any employee of the city who is required to file a financial disclosure statement pursuant to Section 2-73(a).” The employee in this inquiry is not in a category of employee required to file financial disclosure statements under Section 2-73(a). Accordingly, the prohibition under Section 141 of the City Charter and Section 2-52 of the city’s Ethics Code is not applicable to this employee.
IV. The Ethics Code - Conflicting Outside Employment
Section 2-48 of the Ethics Codes states:
(a) General Rule. A city official or employee shall not solicit, accept, or engage in concurrent outside employment which could reasonably be expected to impair the independence of judgment in, or faithful performance of, official duties.
(b) Special Application. The following special rule applies in addition to the general rule: A city official or employee shall not provide services to an outside employer related to the official’s or employee’s city duties.
(c) Other Rules. The general rule stated above applies in addition to all other rules relating to outside employment of city officials and employees, including requirement for obtaining prior approval of outside employment as applicable.
The employee has been hired by the city to provide website related services to one department. The employee is interested in seeking contract work with another department. Since the contract work is not related to the job for which she was hired to perform for the city, the contract work would constitute outside employment. The proposed contract work does not appear to be related or to overlap with the employee’s city duties. Accordingly, the outside employment would not be prohibited by Section 2-48, so long as the employment does not impair or conflict with the employee’s work performance for the department in which she is employed. This means that she cannot use any city resource, including her city duty time, to carry out her responsibilities under the contract with the other department, other than resources provided for in the contract.
In addition, under Personnel Rule XXIV, employees must obtain written approval from their department before engaging in the outside employment. Assuming that the outside employment will not interfere with the employee’s work for the city and assuming the department head has approved the additional employment in writing, the employee may apply for and accept the consultation services contract.
The employee is not prohibited from entering into a business relationship with the city under Section 141 of the City Charter or Section 2-52 of the Ethics Code since this employee is not required to file financial disclosure requirements under Section 2-73 of the Ethics Code.
Assuming compliance with Municipal Civil Service Rule XXIV, the employee may seek and accept the consultation services contract with a city. However, she may not engage in any work pertaining to the contract using any city resource, including and especially her duty time, other than those resources provided for in the contract.