Monday, November 22, 2004-11-22
A.G.: City May Pay for Council Member to Attend Governor’s Inauguration
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
A city may spend public funds to send a council member to attend the governor’s inauguration, so long as the member performs official duties—such as lobbying for legislation—on the trip, Attorney General Bill Lockyer has said.
In a formal opinion issued Thursday, Lockyer said a city acts within the law in reimbursing a council member or other official for expenses incurred in attending an inauguration if the representative met with public officials or tried to facilitate or prevent legislation in which the municipality has an interest.
The opinion was requested by South El Monte City Prosecutor Kenneth B. Dapeer and prepared by Deputy Attorney General Daniel G. Stone.
Quoting language from the general authorization of Government Code Sec. 50023 for members or representatives of municipal lawmaking bodies to lobby for actions they deem beneficial, and citing State v. Davis, 269 S.E.2d 291, a 1980 decision by a North Carolina appellate court holding that purchase of town council members’ train tickets to a presidential inauguration was a valid expenditure of public funds, Lockyer declared:
“The inauguration of the Governor may give a city’s designated representative the opportunity to ‘present information to aid the passage of legislation’ beneficial to the city ‘or to prevent the passage of legislation which the [city council] deems detrimental to the [city].’....At the inauguration ceremony and related official events, it may be expected that a city’s authorized representative ‘may meet with representatives of executive’ departments of the state....If such activities occur, ‘[t]he cost and expense incident thereto are proper charges against the [city].’....Additional duties and responsibilities may be undertaken on behalf of the city by a city council member attending the Governor’s inauguration.”
But Lockyer cautioned that in order to make such expenditures proper “a direct connection must be established between the attendance at the Governor’s inauguration and the performance of official duties, such as lobbying for passage of legislation beneficial to the city.” Government Code Sec. 36514.5 authorizes members of city councils to be reimbursed only for “actual and necessary expenses” incurred in the performance of official duties, the attorney general pointed out.
“The facts in each case must be carefully examined for a proper resolution in applying the terms of section 36514.5,” he wrote, citing City of Roseville v. Tulley (1942) 55 Cal.App.2d 601. “....It is for the city council to exercise its sound discretion in reviewing a claim for expense reimbursement.”
Lockyer went on to distinguish between the role played by a city council in approving expenses when the trip has been approved in advance and its duties when reimbursement is sought after the fact.
In the first situation, the council’s “verification of the member’s expense claim will be fairly limited in scope,” Lockyer said, adding:
“Payment of expenses would be appropriate where the council member has performed the official duties that the council has approved in its authorization of the travel.”
But if the council member attended the inauguration first and asked to be reimbursed later, he explained, “a more extended inquiry must be made by the city council.”
Citing Madden v. Riley (1942) 53 Cal.App.2d 814, the attorney general opined:
“Under such circumstances, relevant questions for the council member might include a number of subjects. For example, was the invitation to attend the inauguration extended to the council member in his official capacity as a representative of the city or was it extended to him in his personal capacity as a campaign contributor or for some other reason? What official duties were performed by the council member at the inauguration? What benefit did the city receive from the council member’s attendance?”
The opinion is No. 04-207.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company