City of San Antonio, Texas
Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 84
February 25, 2004
Issued By: City Attorney’s Office
May a city employee serve on a hospital board outside of Bexar County?
II. Factual Background
A city employee has been invited to become a member of a hospital board. The hospital district is located outside of Bexar County. He inquires whether the Ethics Code would preclude him from serving on this board. It appears that there is no overlap or connection between the employee’s work for the city and the issues considered by the hospital board.
III. The Ethics Code Provisions
A. Prohibition Against Improper Economic Benefit or the Unfair Advancement of Private Interests (Conflict of Interest)
Section 2-43(a)(8) of the City Code (Ethics Code) states:
General Rule. To avoid the appearance and risk of impropriety, a city official or employee shall not take any official action that he or she knows is likely to affect the economic interests of:
(8) a business entity or nonprofit entity for which the city official or employee serves as an officer or director or in any other policy making position.
Section 2-44 states:
General Rule. A city official or employee may not use his or her official position to unfairly advance or impede private interests, or to grant or secure, or attempt to grant or secure, for any person (including himself or herself) any form of special consideration, treatment, exemption, or advantage beyond that which is lawfully available to other persons. A city official who represents to a person that he or she may provide an advantage to that person based on the official’s position on a board or commission violates this rule.
From the facts provided with this inquiry, it does not appear that the employee, in his capacity as a city employee, will ever face consideration of a matter involving the hospital for which he may serve as a board member. In the unlikely event that an issue affecting the interests of the hospital board did come before the employee in his work for the city, Sections 2-43 and 2-44 might require him to recuse himself from that matter.
B. Use of Public Property or Resources
In addition to the provisions discussed above, the employee, should also be cognizant of Section 2-49, which prohibits city employees from using "city facilities, personnel, equipment or supplies for private purposes." If the employee accepts membership to the hospital board, he cannot use any city resources, including time during his duty hours, to engage in work for the board. While participation on the hospital board constitutes work for the public interest, it does not excuse or exempt the employee from his regular employment. If the hospital board meets during the employee’s duty hours, the employee must take leave or make other arrangements with his supervisor. See City Attorney Ethics Advisory Opinions Nos. 63 and 71.
Under the facts presented, the Ethics Code would not preclude the employee from serving on the board of the hospital district. In the event some matter involving the hospital should come before the employee in his work for the city, he will need to assess whether he has a conflict that would require his recusal under Section 2-43 or 2-44 of the City Code (Ethics Code). Further, the employee should not engage in hospital board activities during his city duty hours. If the hospital board meets during that time, the employee must take leave or make other arrangements with his supervisor.