Chapter 176 of the Local Government Code requires a local government officer to file a specified disclosure form when contracting with a vendor if the vendor has a business or family relationship with the officer. Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. KP-428 (2023).
The Hale County Attorney requested a Texas Attorney General Opinion regarding whether the employment of a law firm of an attorney who is the son-in-law of the city manager constitutes a conflict-of-interest under Chapter 176 of the Local Government Code. The Attorney General determined that Chapter 176 of the Local Government Code does not prohibit a contract between a local government entity and a vendor, such as a law firm, when a business or family relationship exists, but the local government office and the vendor must file a specified disclosure form.
In the City of Petersburg, the City Manager contracted with a local law firm where his son-in-law was an associate. The opinion advises that the City Manager was a “local government officer,” the law firm was a “vendor,” and the City Manager’s son-in-law was a “family member.” The opinion further advises that Chapter 176 of the Local Government Code requires a local government office to file a conflicts disclosure statement if (1) the local governmental entity has executed a contract with a vendor or considers such a contract, and (2) the vendor has an employment or other business relationship with a family member of the local government officer. The relationship must result in the family member receiving taxable income greater than $2,500.00 during the 12-month period preceding the date that the officer becomes aware of the local governmental entity’s execution or consideration of a contract with the vendor. Therefore, based on the relationships of the parties involved, the City Manager had a duty to file a disclosure statement and the law firm had a duty to complete and file a conflict-of-interest questionnaire as required by Chapter 176 of the Local Government Code.
A special election is not invalid because a proposition’s enabling date is omitted from the ballot proposition language. Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. KP-0433 (2023).
The City of Combes held a special election to elect three new city councilmembers and to extend the terms of councilmembers from two- to four-year terms. The Cameron County District Attorney requested a Texas Attorney General Opinion regarding (1) whether the new councilmembers should serve two- or four-year terms, and (2) whether the special election was valid given the ballot proposition did not specify the proposition’s enabling date. The Attorney General determined that the councilmembers elected during the special election should serve two-year terms and that the special election was valid.
First, the opinion advises that the newly elected councilmembers should serve two-year terms. Article XI, Section 11 of the Texas Constitution requires a municipality to elect members of its governing body by majority vote when the terms of office are set at more than two but not more than four years. During the special election, the City of Combes did not have the necessary changes in place to implement a majority vote system. Because the City was unable to elect the councilmembers by majority vote, the councilmembers were not eligible to serve four-year terms.
Second, the opinion advises that the special election was not invalid simply because it did not include the date that the new terms would take effect. A ballot measure may be inadequate when it misleads the voters by omitting certain chief features that reflect its character and purpose. However, in the matter at hand, the chief feature of the ballot measure was the length of terms of office of the mayor and councilmembers, not the enabling act. Therefore, the special election was valid.
The common-law doctrine of incompatibility prohibits dual public service in cases of self-appointment, self-employment, and conflicting loyalties. Tex. Att’y Gen. Op. No. KP-0434 (2023).
The Hardin County Attorney requested a Texas Attorney General Opinion regarding whether a commissioner of an emergency services district (“ESD”) may also serve as a voluntary fire fighter for the emergency services district. The Attorney General determined that a court would likely conclude that the common-law doctrine of incompatibility bars a person from simultaneously serving as a volunteer fire fighter for an ESD and a commissioner on the ESD’s board of commissioners.
First, the opinion advises that the constitutional prohibition on dual officeholding did not apply to the matter at hand. Under Article VI, Subsection 40(a) of the Texas Constitution provides that “no person shall hold or exercise at the same time, more than one civil office of emolument.” While the Attorney General office has determined that an ESD commissioner holds an office of emolument, the office has consistently determined that a volunteer fire fighter does not hold an office. Therefore, the prohibition on dual officeholding does not apply.
Second, the opinion advises that the common-law doctrine of incompatibility prohibits dual public services in cases of self-appointment, self-employment, and conflicting loyalties. Self-
employment is not limited to employment but can also include a position performed in a voluntary capacity. The fundamental consideration under the self-employment aspect of the incompatibility doctrine is the supervision of the subordinate by the officer. Because an ESD is ultimately governed by its board of commissioners, a court would likely conclude that the common-law doctrine of incompatibility bars a person from simultaneously serving as a volunteer fire fighter for an ESD and a commissioner on the ESD’s board of commissioners.
Madison Huerta is an Associate in the Firm’s Governmental Relations, Water, and Districts Practice Groups. If you would like additional information or have questions related to these or other matters, please contact Madison at 512.322.5825 or email@example.com.