Ethics Advisory Opinion No.  42

April 17, 2000

Issued By:  City Attorney’s Office

Whether a member of the Historic and Design Review Commission may provide estimates to applicants coming before the Commission once they have completed the application process.

A member of the Historic and Design Review Commission has asked whether he may provide estimates to applicants coming before the Commission once they have completed the application process.  This opinion is based on the following facts: 

The Historic and Design Review Commission serves “as an advisory body to the directors of planning, parks and recreation, building inspections, and other appropriate heads of municipal departments. . .   The Commission is responsible for, among other things, recommending approval for Certificates of Appropriateness to expand, demolish, improve or restore structures in the Historic Districts and within the Riverwalk. 

A member of this Commission, Vincent Solis, is the owner of Solis General Contractor, Inc. which provides interior and exterior remodeling services for private residences.  He has expressed an interest in providing estimates to applicants coming before the Commission upon completion of the application process.

The issue is whether, under the Ethics Code of the City of San Antonio, Mr. Solis may provide such estimates to these applicants.  Part A, Section 2, of the Code[1] states that an “official” includes, among others,  “members of all boards, . . . 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...  Pursuant to this section, Mr. Solis is a City official and as such, must follow the standards of conduct set forth therein.

Unfair Advancement of Private Interests.  Part B. Section 2 of the Code[2] prohibits a City official from using his position to advance or to impede the private interests of any person or entity.  More specifically, Part B, Section 2(c)[3] states:

“[a] city official . . . may not enter into an agreement or understanding with any other person that official action by the official  . . . will be rewarded or reciprocated by the other person, directly or indirectly.”

In the instant case, Mr. Solis may not use his position to advance his interests or give the impression of such.  Because the individuals coming before the Commission are required to obtain the necessary permits prior to making changes to an existing structure, any immediate and subsequent solicitation by Mr. Solis to acquire such remodeling work gives the perception that a reciprocal agreement between the parties existed.  Therefore, Mr. Solis should refrain from approaching these applicants immediately upon completion of the application process.

SUMMARY

A member of the Historic and Design Review Commission may not solicit business from applicants coming before the Commission immediately upon completion of the application process.  The perception is great that special consideration was given the applicant in exchange for the Commissions recommendation to approve any Certificate of Appropriateness.  Therefore, although there is no evidence that such an agreement exists, he should refrain from participating in the competition.

FRANK J. GARZA
City
Attorney



[1]   Currently codified in Ethics Code Section 2-42

[2]   Currently codified in Ethics Code Section 2-44

[3]   Currently codified in Ethics Code Section 2-44(b)(2)