Recent Texas Attorney General and Texas Ethics Commission Opinions of Interest to Cities

Note:  Included opinions are from November 11, 2014 through December 10, 2014.

Opinion No. GA-1093 (Collections Contracts):  Allowing private attorneys or vendors with whom the county has contracted for collections services to make notations about the status of collections efforts on court documents would likely fall within a court’s broad discretion in managing the docket.

Section 37.10 of the Penal Code prohibits tampering with governmental records, which include court records. To the extent, that information in an official court docket is being changed without the court’s knowledge or involvement, such activity would likely be prohibited by Section 37.10.

Opinion No. GA-1092 (Property Tax Exemption):  It is likely a court would determine that the principles of equitable ownership are applicable to an entity seeking a charitable tax exemption under Section 11.18 of the Tax Code.

Opinion No. GA-1090 (Purchasing):  A court would likely conclude that Dallas County is not expressly authorized by Section 62.0515 of the Labor Code to require a higher wage as a condition for a contract award under the County Purchasing Act. Whether the payment of higher wages is definitively and objectively related to the quality of services provided under a specific contract such that it can be included as an evaluation factor on competitive proposals submitted under Section 262.030 of the Act requires a factual inquiry and is not a question that can be answered in the opinion process.

Ethics Advisory Opinion No. 522 (Abuse of Official Capacity):  The work time of state employees is a thing of value belonging to the state and may not be misused by state employees or members of the legislature. The use of a legislative employee’s work time for purely personal activities would not further a state purpose and would constitute a misuse. The legislature is the appropriate body for determining whether, subject to constitutional limitations, a particular use of legislative resources is permissible.