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City of San Antonio, Texas

Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 2011-08
June 16, 2011
Issued By: City Attorney’s Office

I.  Issue

May a city official accept an invitation to participate in a golf tournament, if the entity inviting the employee is not doing or seeking to do business with the City, and is not registered as a lobbyist?

II. Inquiry

A city official has been invited to participate in a golf tournament by a representative of an entity that is not doing business with the City, is not seeking to do business with the City, nor is any employee of the entity registered as a lobbyist with the City.  The entity is not seeking a zoning or platting decision from the City.  The value of the golf tournament admission is over $500.00 per person.

III. The Ethics Code

A.  Restrictions on the Receipt of Gifts and Benefits by City Employees

The Ethics Code contains two rules which regulate the acceptance of gifts or benefits by city employees.   The first restricts gifts given with the intent to influence or reward a city official or employee for official action:

A city official or employee shall not solicit, accept, or agree to accept any gift or benefit for himself or herself or his or her business:

(A) that reasonably tends to influence or reward official conduct; or
(B)  that the official or employee knows or should know is being offered with the intent to influence or reward official conduct.

Ethics Code, Section 2-45(a)(1). 

The second rule restricts gifts from specific sources, regardless of the motivation for the gift:

A city official or employee shall not solicit, accept, or agree to accept any gift or benefit, from:  

(A)   any individual or business entity doing or seeking to do business with the City; or
(B)   any registered lobbyist or public relations firm; or
(C)   any person seeking action or advocating on zoning or platting matters before a city body.

Ethics Code, Section 2-45(a)(2).  This rule provides an exception for gifts up to $50 in value.    

In this instance, the city official is being offered a benefit with financial value of greater than $50.  There is no indication from the inquiry that the organization is inviting the official with the intent of influencing or rewarding official conduct, so the first rule does not appear to be applicable.  

The second rule imposes restrictions regardless of intent, on gifts from three specific sources: those doing or seeking business with the city; registered lobbyists; and those seeking action or advocating on a zoning or platting matter.  As stated above, the entity does not currently do business with the city, is not seeking to do business with the city, nor is the entity nor its employees registered lobbyists with the City.  The entity is not seeking a zoning or platting decision from the City.  Therefore, the restrictions of the second rule also do not apply.  

IV. Conclusion

The city official may accept the invitation to participate in a golf tournament with the entity, as the gift rule does not apply in this situation.