City of San Antonio, Texas
Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 4
December 4, 2000
Issued By: The Ethics Panel
Whether a former City employee may be employed by a company that formerly sold equipment, parts and services to the City of San Antonio.
An employee of a company that has done business with the City of San Antonio has asked whether a former City employee may be employed by the company as an independent contractor. The following facts are presented:
A former employee, an Electronic Technician in the Aviation Department, resigned his position in the summer of 2000. While employed by the City, the individual was responsible for, among other things, the repair and maintenance of electronic and electromechanical equipment. He also was authorized to request parts and services under an annual contract between the City and Accutronics. Currently, Accutronics is not under contract with the City.
Accutronics is considering hiring the former City employee as an independent contractor. As such, the individual would provide consulting services on parking equipment. He would not, however, represent Accutronics before the City Council and/or before City staff. The issue is whether the individual may be hired as an independent contractor given his prior position with the City.
The Ethics Code defines a former City employee as "a person whose duties terminate on or after [January 1, 1999]." Former City employees are required to abide by three standards of conduct: (1) continuing confidentiality; (2) subsequent representation; and (3) interests in discretionary contracts. Each is discussed below.
Continuing confidentiality. As a general rule, a former City employee may not disclose "confidential government information acquired during service as a city . . . employee." A City employee, however, is not prohibited from disclosing issues that are open to the public or that report illegal or unethical conduct to the proper authorities. In the instant case, the individual must refrain from disclosing confidential information received while employed by the City. This includes, but is not limited to, information received as a result of his involvement with the former contract between the City and Accutronics, if applicable. Failure to abide by this standard of conduct subjects the former City employee to the penalties set forth in the Code.
Subsequent representation. Part C, Section 2(b) of the Code prohibits a former City employee from representing for compensation any person or entity, other than himself or his immediate family before the City for two (2) years after termination of his official duties with the City. Representation is defined as "all forms of communication and personal appearances in which a person, not acting in performance of official duties, [ ] serves as an advocate for private interests." This section further prohibits a former City employee from implying that he is able to influence City action as a result of his former position.
Pursuant to this section, the individual may not advocate on behalf of Accutronics before the City Council and/or before any member of City staff. This prohibition extends for a period of two (2) years from the date he resigned from his duties with the City. It does not, however, prohibit the individual from working on a project for the City, if applicable.
Interests in Discretionary Contract. Part C, Section 3 of the Code prohibits former City employees from having a financial interest in a discretionary contract with the City or its agencies, including SAWS. A former City employee, for the purposes of this section, is defined as "any person who, prior to termination of employee status, was required to file a financial disclosure statement pursuant to Section 1(a) of Part G." Because the individual was not required to file such statement, this section does not apply.
Former City officials are subject to the standards of conduct regarding: (1) continuing confidentiality; (2) subsequent representation; and (3) interests in discretionary contracts. Pursuant to these standards of conduct, the individual, if hired as an independent contractor for Accutronics, is prohibited from representing it before the City for a period of two (2) years from the date he resigned from his duties with the City. This includes, but is not limited to, advocating on behalf of Accutronics before City Council and/or before City staff. It does not, however, prohibit the individual from working on a City project, provided that such work does not require him to make such representations.
Elizabeth Benavides Melson
Edgar L. Zepeda