City of San Antonio, Texas

Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 120

June 18, 2007

Issued By: City Attorney’s Office

 

I.  Issue: 

 

May a city official accept a position on the board of trustees of a local university?

 

II. Inquiry

 

A city official has inquired whether the Ethics Code would prohibit accepting a position on the board of trustees of a local university.

 

III.  The Ethics Code

 

City officials are subject the standards of conduct set out in the city’s Ethics Code.

A. Conflict of Interest. As a general rule, a City official or employee may not take official action that they know is likely to have an effect on the official’s own economic interest or on the economic interest of a business or non-profit entity for which he serves as an officer. To have an economic effect, it must be distinguishable from the effect on the public in general. If the official is required to take some official action that would benefit his the business or non-profit entity, the official is required to recuse himself immediately, refraining from any further participation in the matter, and disclose in writing to the City Clerk the economic benefit. In addition, an official must notify his supervisor, in this case the City Manager’s Office immediately of the conflict. The supervisor may, if necessary, reassign the responsibility to another employee. The matters outlined in the request would not be matters that would effect any official city action.

B. Unfair Advancement of Private Interests.  The Ethics Code prohibits all City officials and employees from using their position "to unfairly advance or impede private interests, or to grant or secure, or attempt to grant or secure, for any person (including himself) any form of special consideration, treatment, exemption, or advantage beyond that which is lawfully available to other persons." Under this section, an official must not use his position to unfairly advance the private interests of a person or entity, or give the impression of such. Failure to abide by this standard of conduct is a violation of the Ethics Code and subject to the penalties therein.

C. Confidential Information. All City officials and employees are prohibited from using their position to obtain confidential information for purposes other than the performance of their duties and/or from intentionally or knowingly disclosing such information gained as a result of their position. Therefore, should Texas Lutheran University apply for any City program, take care not to divulge information confidential in nature.

D. Representation of Private Interests. The Ethics Code addresses representation of private interests before the City. The Code prohibits an official or employee from representing for compensation "any person, group or entity, other than . . .himself, or…his spouse or minor children, before the city."

 

IV.  Conclusion

The acceptance of a position on the university board, does not constitute a violation of the City of San Antonio Ethics Code. After accepting the university position, the city official would then need to take care in any interaction between that university and COSA.  If a situation arises requiring official action on the part of the city official, that official would then need to recuse themselves to avoid a conflict of interest violation under the Ethics Code.