OPINION NUMBER - 056

ADOPTED - 1983/02/18

SUBJECT - Conflict of Interests; Use of Government Funds and Property.

REQUESTED BY: Charles J. Egr. Saunders County Clerk, Wahoo, NE 68066

ANALYSIS

(1) May a county official have his or her name printed on office letterheads or envelopes which are paid for with county money?

Yes.

(2) May a county official have printed, at county expense, call cards with his or her name and picture thereon and enclose them in correspondence or mailings using county letterheads and envelopes and postage?

Such cards may be printed at government expense. However, they may not be mailed or used for purposes other than government business. They may not be used for political campaign purposes.

(3) May a county official have printed, at his own expense, call cards with his or her name and picture thereon and enclose them in mailings using county letterheads and envelopes and postage?

Such cards may be printed at an official's personal expense or at the expense of his campaign committee, but may not be enclosed in mailings at government expense unless such cards are being used for government business.

(4) May a county official purchase a supply of pens, paid for with county money, with his or her name imprinted thereon?

Yes, provided that such pens are not given away but used for government business.

(5) May a county official print his name and title on envelopes used for government business?

Yes, provided that such pens are not given away but used for government business.

(6) May a county official print his name and title on envelopes used to enclose automobile certificates of title?

Yes.

The primary statute involved in these matters is Section 49-14,101(4). That statute provides as follows:

"No public official or public employee shall use personnel, resources, property, or funds under that individual's official care and control, other than in accordance with prescribed constitutional, statutory, and regulatory procedures . . .."

This section has been construed to mean that government funds, property and resources shall not be used for a non-governmental purpose.

It has been custom and practice over the years for government officials, in addition to having their titles on their office stationery and related documents, to also have their names printed thereon. It may be said that this is a form of campaigning using government funds and property. Particularly might this be true in view of the provisions of Section 49-1409 which defines a candidate as an elected officeholder, if eligible under law, to be a candidate for re-election to that same office for the purposes of the Accountability Act, which includes accounting for campaign receipts and expenditures. However, so long as such materials are used to conduct government business as distinguished from an intentional use thereof for political campaign activities, such printing is not prohibited.

Intent and use are the key factors. Use of government stationery, government business cards with or without pictures or government pens for purposes beyond the conduct of government business, such as passing out such pens or indiscriminently distributing such cards and particularly after the official has filed for re-election to office, constitutes evidence of such official using government property and resources and perhaps even government funds for a non-governmental purpose in violation of Section 49-14,101(4).