City of San Antonio, Texas
Ethics Opinion No. 6
April 17, 2001
Issued By: The Ethics Review Board
Whether certain contributions by a
lobbyist to organizations promoting the retirement of a city official constitute gifts,
and if such contributions must be reported by the lobbyist.
A registered lobbyist has requested an opinion on matters concerning
whether contributions to a civic event given to honor a retiring City Official constitute
a gift, benefit or expenditure under the City Ethics Code. The contributions were not made
to the City Official and were only made to organizations supporting the event. However,
the organizations in turn have or may make donations in the name of the City Official to
non-profit groups, resulting in plaques and other recognition in the community such as
dedication of park benches, trees or other civic improvements. There may also be a gift to
the individual from the remaining contributions raised from the event.
The lobbyist had three questions:
- Does the contribution to a civic event given to honor a retiring City Official
constitute a gift, benefit or expenditure under Section 6, Part E, if made by a registered
lobbyist of the City of San Antonio?
- Is a City Official required to report such contribution under Parts B & G of the
Ethics Code? Would the City Official be required to recuse himself or herself from any
official action involving the donor?
- Would a donor be required to disclose the contribution under Part D if the donor is
seeking a discretionary contract?
It is the opinion of the Ethics Review Board Panel that a City Official
is required to report the contributions on his financial disclosure report pursuant to
Part G, Section 2(n). In addition, a lobbyist must report the expenditure as required
under Part E, Section 6(a)(6). A contribution to a civic organization supporting the
retirement of a City Official, however, is not required to be disclosed by a party seeking
a discretionary contract.
- Part E, Section 2(e) of the Ethics Code of the City of San Antonio adopts the same
meaning of gift as provided in Part A, Section 2: "Gift" means a voluntary
transfer of property (including the payment of money) or the conferral of a benefit having
pecuniary value, . . . unless consideration of equal or greater value is received by the
donor," Pursuant to this section, a contribution to a civic event given to honor
a retiring City Official is an expenditure reportable by the lobbyist under Part E,
Section 6 (a) (6). It is not, however, a prohibited "gift" under Part B, Section
3 (a) of the Code even if made by a registered lobbyist of the City of San Antonio as the
contribution falls under the "Special Applications" covered in Part B, Section 3
(b) (1) and (b)(3).
- Part G, Section 2(n) of the Code requires a City Official to report gifts greater than
$50.00, with exceptions: (1) campaign contributions made pursuant to the Texas Elections
Code; (2) gifts received from family members within the second degree of consanguinity or
affinity or from fellow city officials and employees; and (3) admissions to events in
which the individual participates in connection with his official duties. Pursuant to this
section, a City official is required to report those gifts that exceed $50.00 in value on
his financial disclosure form.
A City Official may not accept or agree to accept any gift that "reasonably
tends to influence or reward official conduct or that . . . might reasonably be perceived
as tending to influence or reward the discharge of official duties" as stated in
Part B, Section 3 of the Code. If acceptance of the gift is not prohibited under this
section, the City Official may accept the gift. However, any action by the City Official
remains subject to recusal and disclosure as provided in Part B, Section 1, Improper
Economic Benefit, of the Code.
- Part D, Section 1(b) requires disclosure of "all political contributions
totaling one hundred dollars ($100) or more within the past twenty-four (24) months made .
. . to any member of City Council, or to any political action committee that contributes
to City Council elections . . ." Because the contributions for the civic events
are not political contributions, a donor is not required to disclose the contribution
under Part D, Section 1 (b), even if the donor is seeking a discretionary contract.
COCKERHAM, District 3
RODRIGUEZ, District 1