City of San Antonio, Texas

 

Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 2009-09

October 8, 2009

Issued By: City Attorney’s Office

 

I.  Issue: 

 

May a city official or employee accept transportation for city-related business from a private citizen?

 

II. Inquiry

 

A private citizen has offered to provide chartered air transportation to a facility outside the city.  This travel is related to business pending before the city and this location is not served by commercial airlines.   This citizen is not a city contractor, lobbyist nor is this person seeking any city action on zoning or platting matters before the city.    The official has inquired whether he may accept this offer of transportation.

III.  The Ethics Code

A.  Gift Restrictions

The Ethics Code restricts city officials and employees from accepting gifts from three types of sources:

1.      any individual or entity doing or seeking to do business with the city;

2.      any registered lobbyist or public relations firm; or

3.      any person or entity seeking action or advocating on zoning or platting matters before the city.

Ethics Code Section 2-45(a)(2).  According to the facts of this inquiry, the person offering the chartered air transportation does not fit within any of these three categories of individuals or entities who are restricted from offering benefits to city officials or employees.   The citizen, therefore, may provide the transportation to this official.

B.   Travel Reports

Although the provision of transportation to the facility is not prohibited, the benefit must be reported on a Travel Report Form to be filed with the Office of the City Clerk.  Ethics Code Section 2-76 states:

(a)    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, a disclosure statement identifying:

(1)   the name of the sponsor;

(2)   the places to be visited; and

(3)   the purpose and dates of the travel;

(4)   the estimated amount of the expenses paid.

As noted, the official will be traveling to a facility outside the city for a purpose related to city business.  The donor is a private citizen and not a public entity.   The official, therefore, is required to file a travel report with the Office of the City Clerk before the trip.

 

IV. Conclusion

 

The city official may accept chartered transportation from the private citizen who is not doing business or seeking business with the city, not a registered lobbyist and not seeking any action on zoning or platting matters before the city.   The official, however, must file a Travel Report with the Office of the City Clerk prior to leaving for the trip.