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Ethics Commission

Accepting Honoraria

What is an honorarium?

An "honorarium" is any payment made in consideration for any speech given, article published, or attendance at any public or private conference, convention, meeting, social event, meal, or similar gathering.

Why are honoraria subject to regulation?

Restrictions on honoraria prevent outside interests from giving money to city officials and employees. These restrictions prevent outside interests from exercising, or appearing to exercise, an improper influence over City decision making.

I am a high level filer. When can I accept an honorarium?

Never. High level filers are prohibited from accepting any type of honoraria from any source.

I am a local code filer. Can I accept an honorarium?

A local code filer may accept an honorarium, but only from certain sources. Honoraria from a restricted source are not permitted. Also, a local code filer may not accept an honorarium if the filer would be required to report the receipt of income or gifts from the source of the honorarium on his or her statement of economic interests.

I know I can't accept an honorarium, but can I have it donated to the City?

Yes. It would not be considered an unlawful honorarium if the payment is delivered to the City of San Diego within 30 calendar days of receipt for donation to the City’s general fund. Additionally, it may be delivered to another government agency or to an organization exempt from taxation under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. These exceptions apply only if you do not claim a deduction for income tax purposes.

How do I donate an honorarium to a charity instead of accepting it?

A charitable donation is not considered an unlawful honorarium if all of the following apply:

  • The donation is made directly to a bona fide charitable, educational, civic, religious, or similar tax-exempt, nonprofit organization, and is not delivered to you;
  • You do not make the donation a condition for your speech, article, or attendance;
  • You do not claim the donation as a deduction from income for tax purposes;
  • The donation will have no reasonably foreseeable financial effect on you or on any member of your immediate family; and
  • You are not identified to the recipient organization in connection with the donation. If you know or have reason to know that a donor intends to make such a donation, you must inform the donor that the donation cannot be made in your name.

I just accepted an honorarium. I didn't know it was unlawful. What should I do?

If you do not donate it to the City's general fund or deliver it to another government agency or an organization exempt from taxation under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, you must return it to the source of the honorarium within thirty calendar days.

I still have questions. How do I get help?

The ethics commission is available to provide telephonic or written advice regarding these matters.