Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 38
January 4, 2000
Issued By: City Attorney’s Office
Whether an individual who serves as a member of the Zoning Commission and the City’s Tax Phase-In Committee may be hired as an administrative aide to a City Councilmember.
The City Clerk’s
Office has asked whether an individual who serves as a member on two (2)
commissions of the City of
The Zoning Commission is responsible for, among other things, recommending and presenting to the City Council the boundaries of original zoning districts. The Tax Phase-In Advisory Committee, on the other hand, serves in an advisory capacity to review quarterly reports of Tax Phase-In Agreements. An individual who serves on both of these commissions is being considered for a position of an administrative assistant to a City Councilmember. As an administrative assistant, the individual would be under contract with the City to provide services as stated in the Administrative Assistant Contract.
The issue is whether an individual who serves as a member of these two commissions may also serve as an administrative aide to a City Councilmember. Part A, Section 2. of the Code of Ethics states that an “official” includes, among others, “members of all boards, commissions (except the Youth Commission whose members are minors), committees, and other bodies created by the City Council pursuant to federal or state law or City ordinance, including entities that may be advisory only in nature...” Given his membership on the commissions, the individual is a City official, and as such, is required to follow the standards of conduct as set out in the Code.
Prohibited Financial Interest in Contract. Part B, Section 10 prohibits City officers from having a financial interest in a contract with the City or its agencies. Under this section, a City officer includes, among others, “members of any board or commission which is more than advisory in function.” A board or commission is more than advisory in function where the decisions of said commission are appealable to the City Council. All other commissions are advisory as the decisions they render have no binding force other than to provide the information supporting the commission’s recommendation(s). Because the decisions rendered by the Zoning Commission are passed after public hearing and unless appealed to the City Council, the Zoning Commission is one that is more than advisory in function. Therefore, the members of this commission are City officers for the purposes of this section.
To be in violation of this section, the City officer must have a financial interest in a contract with the City. A financial interest, includes, but is not limited to, being a party to a City contract. Because aides to City Councilmembers are under contract with the City to provide administrative services, the requisite financial interest would be met where an officer is under said contract. Therefore, a violation of this section is found where a member of the Zoning Commission also serves as an administrative aide.
If, however, the individual resigns from his position with the Zoning Commission, he may serve as an administrative aide subsequent to such resignation. The individual may continue serving as a member of the Tax Phase-In Committee provided he continue to abide by the standards of conduct as set forth in the Code.
A member of the Zoning
Commission and the Tax Phase-In Committee may not contract to provide
administrative services to a City Councilmember given his membership on the
Zoning Commission, a circumstance prohibited by the Ethics Code of the City of