City of San Antonio, Texas

 

Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 82

January 16, 2004

Issued By: City Attorney’s Office

 

 

I. Issue

 

May a city employee accept hotel accommodation paid by a non-profit organization

in connection with an event co-hosted by the City of San Antonio and

 the non-profit organization ?

 

II.  Factual Background

               

A city employee has inquired whether she may accept accommodation at a hotel paid for by a non-profit organization.   The employee works for a department that coordinates community events.   In this instance, the department contracted with a non-profit community organization to arrange the occasion.    The event took place during late evening hours and required the employee to be at the site to supervise the activities and be available to address problems as they arose.   To facilitate the employee’s availability, the non-profit organization arranged and paid for the employee’s accommodation at a hotel located near the event site.

 

The employee has inquired whether the accommodation constitutes a gift and if so, is she required to report the expenditure on her annual gift report.    The employee is required to report gifts with a cumulative value of more than $100 on her annual gift report under Section 2-78.[1]

 

           

III.  The Ethics Code Gift Provisions

 

Section 2-45(a) of the City Code (Ethics Code) states:

 

General Rule.

(1)          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.

 

(2)          A city official or employee shall not solicit, accept, or agree to accept any gift or benefit, save and except for items received that are of nominal value and meals in an individual expense of $50 or less at any occurrence, or meals with no more than a cumulative value of $500 in a single calendar year, from a single source, 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 or advocating on zoning or platting matters before a              city body.

 

 

VI.  Conclusion

 

In this matter, the non-profit organization provided the employee with hotel accommodation to facilitate the execution of duties directly related to the event it co-hosted with the city.    Because her official responsibilities required that she remain at the site and accessible even after the event had ended, the expenditure was directly related to her employment.  Accordingly, the hotel accommodation did not constitute a gift.[2]   The employee is not required to report the expenditure on her annual gift report.

 



[1]   There are two tiers of financial disclosure reporting.   Elected officials and management-level personnel are required to file a full financial disclosure statement under Section 2-73 of the City Code (Ethics Code).  Other personnel have been designated as “specified employees.”  Specified employees must annually submit a one-page gift report.

[2]  The Ethics Code provides exceptions to the gift restrictions.  Under Section 2-45(b)(6) and (b)(10), an employee may accept admission to events that are connected to the employee’s official duties as a representative of the city.   Because the hotel expenditure did not constitute a gift, these exceptions are inapplicable.