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:

 

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. Would a donor be required to disclose the contribution under Part D if the donor is seeking a discretionary contract?

 

OPINION

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.

Specifically:

 

  1. 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).
  2. 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.

  1. 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.

 

 

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RON GOSSEN, District 10

ARTHUR DOWNEY, District 9

 

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RICK COCKERHAM, District 3

ROSS RODRIGUEZ, District 1