Outreach Events Overview
Generally, there are three basic types of outreach events that the Board of Equalization (BOE) participates in:
BOE Sponsored Events
BOE sponsored events are initiated by a BOE program or Board Member. BOE coordinates and funds these events in whole or in part, and the events include only government entities, nonprofit organizations as event sponsors, event partners, or event participants.
Non-BOE Sponsored Events
Non-BOE sponsored events are sponsored and coordinated by non-profit or community-based organizations.
BOE Co-Sponsored Events
BOE co-sponsored events are sponsored and coordinated in different respects by BOE and non-profit or community-based organizations.
Prospective outreach events must have a governmental purpose and be reviewed and approved by the BOE's External Affairs Department, Legal Department, and Executive Director. In addition, prospective events must abide by the following guidelines:
BOE Sponsored Events
- May be produced in co-sponsorship with non-profit organizations and/or government agencies (does not prohibit nonprofit partners having for profit contributors);
- Admission is free to the participants;
- Event materials are created, printed and distributed by the BOE. All materials distributed to the public are reviewed and approved by the External Affairs Department, Legal Department, and Executive Director. Although it is not the general practice for the BOE to include logos of for-profit company names or logos on event materials, there is no law specifically prohibiting placement of a for-profit business logo on event materials created, printed and distributed by the BOE.
- Exhibit tables at BOE sponsored events are offered to non-profit organizations or government agencies at no charge;
- Venues used for BOE sponsored events are typically government, non-profit or community facilities that can be used at no cost. If there is a fee that is typically charged for the venue, Outreach Services Division (OSD) of the External Affairs Department will submit a fee waiver request.
Non-BOE Sponsored Events
Policies related to non-BOE sponsored events are outlined in the Board of Equalization Administrative Manual (BEAM) Sections 7807, 7808 and 7809 and are summarized below:
- It is permissible for the BOE to participate in non-BOE sponsored events that are sponsored and coordinated by nonprofit or community-based organizations that have partnered with for-profit private businesses to put on the event.
- Requests for BOE participation in non-BOE sponsored events (i.e., a speaker, panel participation, staffing a booth or table), are evaluated by OSD and the Legal Department prior to authorizing participation to verify: (1) that the event has a governmental purpose, and (2) that use of BOE resources is not for personal or campaign purposes. All proposed allocation of resources are reviewed and approved by the Executive Director.
- It is permissible for BOE to participate in events where for-profit vendors have partnered with the sponsoring non-profit to have booths or tables at the events and/or otherwise support and help defray the costs of the seminars.
- Nothing in the Political Reform Act prevents the BOE from participating in non-BOE sponsored events sponsored or coordinated by non-profit and community-based organizations that have solicited payments from for-profit businesses to support and help defray the costs of the seminars.
BOE Co-Sponsored Events
- Requests for BOE co-sponsorship follow the guidelines for non-BOE sponsored events.
The BOE Legal Department reviews and approves all events that the BOE participates. There are six different areas of legal guidance applicable to Outreach Events:
Quentin L. Kopp Conflict of Interest Act of 1990 (Kopp Act)
Generally, an outreach event does not result in disqualification under the Kopp Act because payments made to help defray the costs of a governmental event will not be construed as “contributions” if they are made principally for legislative, governmental, or charitable purposes and not principally for personal or campaign purposes.
A Member of the Board is disqualified from participating in an adjudicatory proceeding pending before the Board if any party, participant, or agent has contributed $250 or more to the Member in the preceding 12 months. (Board Reference Manual pp. 3-1 - 3-3.) For purposes of the Kopp Act, the term “contribution” has the same meaning prescribed in Govt. Code section 82015 of the Political Reform Act (PRA) and related regulations. Therefore, if a payment is not considered a “contribution” under the PRA, it will not be deemed a contribution under the Kopp Act.
Political Reform Act
Outreach events generally do not constitute a conflict of interest under the Political Reform Act because payments made to help defray the costs of a governmental event will not be construed as “gifts” or “contributions.” If a Board Member cosponsors a free tax seminar with a non-profit organization and solicits donations to help defray the seminar-related costs, the donations received by the non-profit, at the Board Member’s behest, constitute “behested payments,” not contributions or gifts.
A payment that is made by a third party principally for legislative, governmental, or charitable purposes is generally considered a “behested payment” if it is requested, solicited, or suggested by an elected officer, or is otherwise made in cooperation, consultation, coordination, or with the consent of the elected officer. This includes payments behested on behalf of the elected officer by his or her agent or employee. (Gov. Code, § 82015, subd. (b)(2)(B)(iii); Cal. Code Regs., tit. 2, §18225.7; Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), Limitations and Restrictions on Gifts, Honoraria, Travel and Loans (February 2011), at p. 5.) These payments are not for personal or campaign purposes.
Behested payments will not be considered a contribution or a gift as long as they are not made principally for personal or campaign purposes. Thus, as long as the seminar is principally for governmental purposes, no contribution will occur. If such payments equal or exceed $5,000 in the aggregate in a calendar year from the same source, then reporting obligations will occur. (Gov. Code, §82015(b)(2)(B)(iii).)
Generally, an outreach event does not result in violation of the “mass mailing” rule, so long as the dissemination of promotional materials meets one of the exceptions to the prohibition, or results in sending 200 or less invites via US mail. Government Code section 89001 provides that no newsletter or other mass mailing shall be sent at public expense. A “mass mailing” has been made when over 200 substantially similar pieces of mail have been delivered, by any means, by an officeholder, candidate, or committee, to any person’s home, office, or post office box in a calendar month. (Gov. Code, § 82041.5)
Because the outreach event invites typically “feature” the Member (for example, a Member’s name is mentioned at least once or used in letterhead), no more than 200 copies of the event invites may be mailed or delivered, by any means, to a person’s home, office, or post office box in a single calendar month, unless an exception applies and the announcement otherwise complies with the applicable provisions in FPPC Regulation 18901(b). For instance, the announcement cannot be signed by the Member, no photographs of the Member can be included, and there can be no other reference to the Member, unless another exception applies. (FPPC Regulation 18901). If, however, items are set out for the public to pick up on their own, are handed out in a public area, or sent by email via the Internet, the restrictions of the mass mailing regulation do not apply.
Conflicts of Interest
- Business Investment in a company of $2,000 or more.
- Business Employment as a director, officer, partner, trustee, employee, or holding any position of management.
- Real Property interests of $2,000 or more, and also certain leasehold interests.
- Sources from whom/which you have received (or from whom you have been promised) $500 or more in income within 12 months prior to the decision about which you are concerned. (Includes a community property interest in spouse’s or registered domestic partner’s income.)
- Gifts from any single source may not exceed $420 in a calendar year. Gifts from a single source that aggregate $50 or more must be disclosed, and gifts aggregating $420 or more received by an official may subject the official to disqualification with respect to the source. (Gov. Code, § 87103(e).)
- Personal Financial Effect - Personal expenses, income, assets, or liabilities are likely to go up or down by $250 or more in a 12-month period as a result of your governmental decision.
In the absence of an economic interest at or above the disqualifying amounts listed above, a Board Member would not have a conflict of interest with regard to a matter involving that taxpayer, and would therefore, be eligible to participate in the discussion and vote of that taxpayer’s matter.
If a Board Member has a financial conflict of interest under the Political Reform Act (PRA), regardless of which calendar the matter appears, a Member would not be entitled to participate in that matter. A Board Member who has a financial conflict of interest under the PRA must do the following:
- Publicly identify, in enough detail to be understood by the public, the financial interest that causes the conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest.
- Recuse himself or herself from discussing or voting on the matter or from attempting to use his or her position to influence the decision.
- Leave the room until after the discussion, vote, or any other disposition of the matter is concluded, unless the matter is on an agenda reserved for uncontested matters.
A Board Member or Deputy State Controller may choose to abstain from or not be present for voting, even if there is nothing that legally prohibits their participation, and regardless of whether their non-participation impacts the outcome of the decision. However, if a Board Member or Deputy State Controller is entitled to participate, but chooses not to, his or her reason for not participating need not be disclosed on the record.
Use of State Resources
Use of the Board resources for outreach events, including non-BOE sponsored events, is consistent with Government Code sections 8314, 85300, and 1090, and is permissible, provided that:
- the event has a governmental purpose (meaning, the event has a meaningful connection to BOE’s responsibilities);
- the state funds are not used for personal purposes or to advocate or promote a Member’s election to public office; rather, the event has a public purpose;
- no state funds are paid (directly or indirectly) to the co-sponsoring nonprofit; and
- the Member does not enter the state into contracts in which the Member has a personal financial interest.
Policies related to non-BOE sponsored events are outlined in BEAM SectionsPolicies related to non-BOE sponsored events are outlined in BEAM Sections 7807, 7808 and 7809, reproduced below.
7807: Official Participation by Employees in Non-BOE Sponsored Activities
Employee participation in a restricted non-Board sponsored activity requires the approval of the Executive Director as set forth in BEAM Section 7808. A non-BOE sponsored activity is an activity that is not coordinated and/or funded by the Board.
Restricted Activities: Examples of restricted non-BOE sponsored activities include:
- Participating as a speaker at a conference, seminar, meeting, workshop, or class that is not sponsoredby the BOE.
- Reviewing a book or other publication that is not written by BOE staff.
- Conducting a tour of BOE facilities.
- Completing a questionnaire or survey.
As a general rule, participation by an employee on state time in a restricted non-BOE sponsored activity will not be approved unless the activity is sponsored by a governmental, quasi-governmental or nonprofit entity. Exceptions to the general rule may be approved by the Executive Director.
Exempted Activities: Non-BOE sponsored activities that have been exempted from the general rule are:
- Taxpayer education and outreach provided through speakers at not-for-profit events.
- Recruitment activities such as job fairs or college career days.
- Tours of BOE facilities by foreign government officials arranged by for-profit entities which have contracted with United States Government agencies and various foreign governments.
- The approval process for each exempted activity is set forth in BEAM Section 7808.
7808: Approval Procedure for Participation by BOE Employees in Non-BOE Sponsored Activities
Staffing and workload demands will be taken into consideration prior to authorizing employee participation in either restricted or exempted non-BOE sponsored activities. The appropriate Deputy Director or direct report Division Chief shall log and note the disposition of all written requests for employee participation in restricted and exempted non-BOE sponsored activities.
The appropriate approval procedure for each type of non-BOE sponsored activity is set forth below.
The request for employee participation in a restricted non-BOE sponsored activity, accompanied by a written recommendation consistent with BOE policy, shall be forwarded from the appropriate Deputy Director or direct report Division Chief to the Executive Director (Attention: Chief Counsel) for approval or denial of the request.
Tours Of BOE Facilities By Foreign Government Officials
A request for a tour of BOE facilities by foreign government arranged by for-profit entities which have contracted with United States Government agencies and various foreign governments shall be handled in the same manner as a request for an employee to participate in restricted non-BOE sponsored activities.
A request for Headquarters staff to participate in recruitment activity shall be submitted to the Chief of the Personnel Management Division for approval or denial of the request. A request for District office staff to participate in a recruitment activity shall be submitted to the appropriate District Administrator for approval or denial of the request. If the recruitment activity is approved by the District Administrator, a copy will be sent to the Chief of Field Operations and the Recruitment Coordinator in the Personnel Management Division.
Taxpayer Education And Outreach
Requests for employee participation in taxpayer education and outreach provided through speakers at not-for-profit events shall be approved or denied in writing by the appropriate Deputy Director or direct report Division Chief.
7809: Unofficial Participation by Employees
If an employee decides to participate in a non-BOE sponsored activity on non-state time, such participation must comply with the provisions of the Political Reform Act (Government Code Section 81000 et seq.) regarding the acceptance of gifts, travel expenses, and honoraria. Such participation must also comply with the standards of conduct found in the BOE’s “Statement of Activities That Are Inconsistent, Incompatible, or in Conflict with Duties as an Employee of the State Board of Equalization”.
The following restrictions also apply to an employee who participates unofficially in a non-BOE sponsored activity:
- No state time should be used by the employee.
- Pre-existing, nonconfidential, materials may be used as a basis for a presentation; however, state resources may not be used to copy the materials.
- The employee must make it clear that any views expressed are personal and not necessarily those of the BOE.
- The employee must limit statements about his or her employment with the BOE to position title, length of service, and location of employment.
- The employee may not be identified on the program or other materials as a BOE employee.
Public resources may not be used by the BOE unless there is a governmental or public purpose. This means that the expenditure of BOE resources must benefit the public interest rather than private individuals or a private purpose. Even if there is a governmental or public purpose, the expenditure must still be authorized. A Board Member or the BOE only has the authority to expend resources on governmental or public purposes within its express or implied constitutional or statutory authority. In League of Women Voters of California v. Countywide Criminal Justice Coordination Committee (1988) 203 Cal. App. 3d 529, 549, the court explained that “the determination of what constitutes a public purpose is primarily a matter for legislative discretion [citations], which is not disturbed by the courts so long as it has a reasonable basis.” The court suggested, however, that in the case of an administrative agency, what constitutes a “legitimate purpose” is limited by the agency’s explicit authority. In making this distinction, the court compared a state agency to a city government who they viewed to possess “broad autonomous legislative and fiscal powers.”
Consistent with the opinion of the Attorney General in 73 Cal. Ops. Atty. Gen 255 (1990)(to view,visit www.ag.ca.gov and click on “Legal Opinions”), to be of “legitimate interest” to the BOE, the expenditure of state funds must affect the BOE as a state agency, or affect the citizens of the BOE in their status as citizens of the BOE. Mere general interest of the electorate in any matter, (e.g., in “pro-life” or “pro-choice” matters), would not be sufficient or a legitimate interest on which to expend state funds.
According to the Attorney General in its Ethics Training Course for State Officials, the starting point for any analysis concerning the misuse of public funds begins with the principle that public funds must be expended for an authorized public purpose. An expenditure is made for a public purpose when its purpose is to benefit the public interest rather than private individuals or private purposes. Once a public purpose is established, the expenditure must still be authorized. A public official possesses only those powers that are conferred by law, either expressly or impliedly.
A payment that is made by a third party principally for legislative, governmental, or charitable purposes is generally considered a “behested payment” if it is requested, solicited, or suggested by an elected officer, or is otherwise made in cooperation, consultation, coordination, or with the consent of the elected officer. This includes payments behested on behalf of the elected officer by his or her agent or employee. (Gov. Code, § 82015, subd. (b)(2)(B)(iii); Cal. Code Regs., tit. 2, § 18225.7; Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), Limitations and Restrictions on Gifts, Honoraria, Travel and Loans (February 2010), at p. 5.) These payments are not for personal or campaign purposes.
Government Code section 82015(b)(2)(B)(iii) states that a payment which is made principally for legislative, governmental, or charitable purposes will not be considered a contribution or a gift as long as it is not made principally for personal purposes. Thus, as long as the seminar is principally for governmental purposes, no contribution will occur. If such payments equal or exceed $5,000 in the aggregate in a calendar year from the same source, then reporting obligations will occur. (Gov. Code, § 82015(b)(2)(B)(iii).) Moreover, in order to not be deemed a “contribution,” the payment(s) may not be used for “election-related activities.”