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City of San Antonio, Texas

Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 2011-03
February 15, 2011
Issued By: City Attorney’s Office

 

I.  Issue

May City staff accept complimentary Sea World Tickets from the company as part of their participation in an animal adoption event?

II. Inquiry:

Sea World has offered the gift of two complimentary tickets, with a face value of $54 each, to all who participate in an animal adoption event to be held at the Sea World facility.  The tickets are part of an overall complimentary package offered to all involved in the adoption event, including those who adopt animals during the event.  Sea World will enter into a one-time contract with the City for this event. 

III. The Ethics Code:

Section 2-45 (a)(1) of the City's Ethics Code prohibits city officials and employees from soliciting or accepting gifts where the gift is intended to influence or reward official conduct. 

Section 2-45(b) of the rule prohibits city officials and employees from soliciting or accepting gifts in three specific instances:  first, where the gift is from a person seeking to do or doing business with the city, second, if the gift is from a registered lobbyist, and third, if the gift is from someone seeking a zoning or platting decision from the City. This rule has several exceptions, including gifts of nominal value, which has been interpreted as being $50.00 or less.

There is no indication that Sea World is attempting to influence or reward official conduct of city employees.  However, because Sea World and the City will be entering into an agreement for the event, those city employees who participate in the Sea World Adoption event may not accept the complimentary tickets, as they are valued at over $50.00 each.

IV. Conclusion

 Because the City is doing business with Sea World in order to conduct this adoption event, City employees may not accept the gift of free tickets to Sea World, valued at $54.00 each, even if they are offered to every participant in the event.