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Can Board & Council Members Be Reimbursed For Internet Expenses?

June, 2018

In the Loop: With the Hanson Bridgett Government Group


Many of us have had to request reimbursement from our company for an expense, which can be a pretty complicated process. For members of a legislative body, these rules can be even more specific. 

We'll think about Buddy, who sits on city council. Not long ago, the City gave Buddy a city-owned tablet to allow him to do his job remotely. However, the City doesn't pay for his internet service fees at home, which is where Buddy conducts a lot of City business, and also watches squirrel videos.

So, Buddy makes a request to receive a monthly stipend for his internet costs. But wait a minute—is this allowed under the Government Code?

Typically, when reimbursement is allowed, a local agency may only reimburse members of a legislative body for actual and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of official duties. Sorry Buddy, but you can’t get reimbursed for work you haven’t done yet.

But Buddy has an idea. What if he asks to receive the stipend at the end of the month instead? Well, there’s still a problem. An estimated monthly stipend just doesn’t match the requirement that reimbursement be for actual costs incurred, since the stipend amount could very well end up being more than the final expense. The law only permits reimbursement for members of a legislative body after the submission of receipts that document those expenses. 

And even if Buddy fetches his receipt, there’s another problem. It’s really hard to determine what percentage of Buddy's internet costs were spent on public business and which were spent on squirrels.

But, if Buddy keeps a log of the time he’s spent on the internet for public business and then submits a receipt for the monthly service, the City can then reimburse him the proportional cost of the monthly bill. As long as he keeps receipts to accompany his requests, Buddy is A-Okay. 


For more information, please contact:

Nicole Witt

415-995-6454 Direct Phone
415-541-9366 Fax

Email Attorney