I. GENERAL POLICY STATEMENT
Mecklenburg County shall seek sponsors that further its mission by providing monetary or in-kind support for County programs or services. Mecklenburg County recognizes that the public trust and perception of its impartiality may be damaged by sponsorships that are aesthetically displeasing, politically oriented, or offensive to segments of its citizenry. When the County loses public trust and public perception of impartiality, its ability to govern effectively in the interests of its citizens is impaired. Therefore, Mecklenburg County permits private sponsorships of government programs or services in limited circumstances as a means to generate funds for improving or expanding those programs and services. Mecklenburg County currently limits its sponsorship program to nonpublic forums and exercises sole discretion over who is eligible to become a sponsor according to the terms of the Policy.
Whenever possible, sponsorships shall be linked to specific activities, events, programs, or publications. Mecklenburg County will neither seek nor accept sponsors that manufacture products or take positions inconsistent with local, State, or federal law or with Mecklenburg County policies, positions, or resolutions. The acceptance of an Application for Sponsorship or the establishment of a sponsorship agreement does not constitute an endorsement by Mecklenburg County of the sponsor's organization, products, or services.
II. PURPOSE AND INTENT
The purpose of this Policy and its related practices and guidelines is to define the conditions upon which sponsorship messages may be placed upon property or in publications of the County and to establish definitive guidelines for the acceptance and placement of such messages. It is the intent of the Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners to preserve its full rights and discretion to restrict access to County properties or in County publications and to reject or refuse placement of any or all sponsorship messages. To the extent that any such messages are accepted, Mecklenburg County reserves the right of full editorial control over the placement, content, appearance and wording and to determine and prohibit types of sponsorship messages which are deemed inappropriate for or inconsistent with the business of the County or the services provided to Mecklenburg County residents.
III. DEFINITION OF TERMS
"Sponsorship" is the right of an external entity (for-profit or not-for-profit) to associate its name, products, or services with Mecklenburg County's programs, services, or name. Sponsorship is a business relationship in which Mecklenburg County and the external entity exchange goods, services, and donations for the public display of a message on County property acknowledging private support.
The term "open, limited, or designated public forum" means either a forum under the control of the County that is traditionally open to the unfettered exchange of ideas, (such as a park or a sidewalk), or a forum under the control of the County that is non-traditionally open but is nevertheless intentionally and affirmatively opened by the County for speech (such as a street-side kiosk for posting pamphlets or a special area designated for making speeches).
The term "nonpublic forum" is broadly defined as any property that is not by tradition or designation a forum for public communication (such as most government publications and websites).
IV. AUTHORIZATION REQUIRED
All property and publications of Mecklenburg County are intended and exclusively used for business operations of the County in providing governmental services and programs to and for the County residents, and, except as required by law or expressly established by an affirmative action of the Board of County Commissioners, no property or publication of the County shall be intended or considered as an open, limited, or designated public forum, and no person shall have a right to access or use any County property or publication for any purpose other than the intended and authorized governmental purpose or service. Placement of sponsorship messages upon County property or in County publications shall require specific authorization.
Mecklenburg County possesses sole and final decision-making authority for determining the appropriateness of a sponsorship relationship and reserves the right to refuse to enter into any proposed sponsorship agreement. Sponsorship requests shall be submitted through an Application for Sponsorship ("Application") in a manner and form outlined in the following section, and sponsorship agreements based on responses to an Application shall be reviewed in accordance with the following procedures and guidelines:
Sponsorship agreements projected to generate $50,000 or more shall require the written approval of the County Manager, who shall inform the Board of County Commissioners.
Sponsorship agreements projected to generate less than $50,000 shall require the written approval of the head of the Mecklenburg County Public Service and Information Department.
The Resource Development Coordinator may approve sponsorship agreements projected to generate less than $5,000, in consultation with the head of the Mecklenburg County Public Service and Information Department.
In the discretion of the County Manager, any proposed sponsorship agreement may be referred to the Board of County Commissioners for approval.
V. CRITERIA FOR APPLICATION REVIEW
Applications for sponsorship of Mecklenburg County programs or services shall clearly outline the forms of support sought and offered and the recognition to be given by the County. Acceptance of an Application by the County shall result in the creation of a sponsorship agreement that will detail the following information, at a minimum:
Activities, products, and services of the private entity, its parent, subsidiaries, affiliates and predecessor companies;
Benefits to be given to the proposed sponsor by Mecklenburg County, and the estimated monetary value of those benefits;
Benefits to be given to Mecklenburg County by the proposed sponsor, and the estimated monetary value of those benefits;
Prominence of the proposed public recognition of support;
Content of the proposed public recognition of support;
Duration of the proposed public recognition of support;
Conditions under which the sponsorship agreement may be terminated.
Mecklenburg County recognizes that entering into a sponsorship agreement with an external entity does not constitute an endorsement of the entity or its services and products but does imply an affiliation. Such affiliation can affect the reputation of
Mecklenburg County among its residents and its ability to govern effectively. Therefore, any proposal for sponsorship of a Mecklenburg County program or service in which the involvement of an outside entity compromises the public interest will be rejected.
Mecklenburg County shall consider the following criteria before accepting an Application or entering into a sponsorship agreement:
Extent and prominence of public display of sponsorship;
Aesthetic characteristics of the public display of sponsorship;
Importance of the sponsorship to the mission of Mecklenburg County;
Level of support provided by the sponsor;
Cooperation necessary from other Mecklenburg County units to implement the sponsorship;
Inconsistencies between Mecklenburg County policies and the known policies or practices of the potential sponsor;
Other factors that might undermine public confidence in the County's impartiality or interfere with the efficient delivery of County services or operations, including, but not limited to, current or potential conflicts of interest between the sponsor and Mecklenburg County employees, officials, or affiliates; and the potential for the sponsorship to tarnish the County's standing among its residents or otherwise impair the ability of Mecklenburg County to govern its residents.
VI. PERMISSIBLE SPONSORS AND MESSAGE CONTENT
Sponsorships on Mecklenburg County property are maintained as a nonpublic forum. Mecklenburg County intends to preserve its rights and discretion to exercise full editorial control over the placement, content, appearance, and wording of sponsorship affiliations and messages. Mecklenburg County may make distinctions on the appropriateness of sponsors on the basis of subject matter of a potential sponsorship recognition message. Mecklenburg County will not deny sponsorship opportunities on the basis of the potential sponsor's viewpoint.
Sponsorship from an organization that is engaged in any of the following activities, that has a mission of supporting any of the following subject matters, or that, in the sole discretion and judgment of the authorized representative of the County or the Board of County Commissioners, is deemed to be unsuitable for and contrary to community standards or appropriateness for government publications, shall be prohibited on any County property or in County publications:
Promotion of the sale or consumption of alcoholic or cereal malt beverages, in name, likeness or implication or promotion of establishments that are licensed for and primarily sell alcoholic or cereal malt beverages, including bars; provided, however, restaurants or other food services establishments and hotels or other places of lodging may be authorized when the commercial message or advertisement promotes only the food services or lodging;
Promotion of the sale or consumption of tobacco products or depiction of the use of tobacco products;
Commentary, advocacy or promotion of issues, candidates, campaigns or organizations of a social, political, religious, or rhetorical nature;
Promotion of gambling, pari-mutual betting, or games of chance, in name, likeness or implication, or promotion of establishments providing such services or activities of a related or similar nature;
Depiction in any form of nudity or semi-nudity, profanity, obscenity, or lewdness, or characterizations which suggest, depict or promote any such element or sexually oriented products, activities or materials;
Promotion in any form of illegal drugs, illegal drug use or illegal drug materials, or characterizations which suggest or depict the promotion or glorification of any such products, activities or materials;
Promotion of the use or sale of firearms, explosives or other weapons, or the depiction, suggestion or glorification of violence or acts of a violent nature;
Use of language or descriptive material which taken in form and context is deemed to be unsuitable for and contrary to community standards of appropriateness for governmental or family publications;
Use of words, language, representations or descriptive material of any kind having more than one meaning or connotation, one of which would otherwise be prohibited under this Policy;
Inclusion of materials, depictions, promotions or offerings which are the type prohibited by, or by their nature would violate, any postal restrictions or regulations or any federal, State, or local law, rule, or regulation.
VII. PERMISSIBLE RECOGNITION MESSAGES
Sponsorship recognition messages may identify the sponsor but ordinarily should not promote or endorse the organization or its products or services. Statements that advocate, contain price information or an indication of associated savings or value, request a response, or contain comparative or qualitative descriptions of products, services or organizations will ordinarily not be accepted. In accordance with the provisions of Section IV of this Policy, the County Manager, the head of the Public Service and Information Department, or the Resource Development Coordinator shall have the ultimate authority to determine what is permissible in a recognition message. Ordinarily, only the following content will be deemed appropriate:
The legally recognized name of the sponsoring organization;
The sponsor's organizational slogan if it identifies rather than promotes the organization or its products or services;
The sponsor's product or services line, described in brief, generic, objective terms. Generally, only one product or service line may be identified;
Brief contact information for the sponsor's organization, such as a phone number, address, or Internet website. Contact information should be stated in a manner that avoids an implication of urging the reader to action.
Mecklenburg County will not make any statements that directly or indirectly advocate or endorse a sponsor's organization, products, or services.
No materials or communications, including, but not limited to, print, video, Internet, broadcast, or display items developed to promote or communicate the sponsorship using Mecklenburg County's name, marks, or logo, may be issued without written approval from the Mecklenburg County Manager and County Attorney, or their designees.
VIII. GENERAL CONDITIONS
1. Sponsors are solely responsible for obtaining necessary permission to use photographs, trademarks, trade names, copyrighted material or any other legally protected property and shall hold the County harmless for any such use, including all consequences or damages resulting therefrom. All commercial messages or advertisements shall be accepted and published by the County upon the representation that the agency or sponsor is authorized to publish the entire contents and subject matter thereof. Sponsor agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the County, its officers, agents and employees against all damages, costs and expenses including, without limitation, attorney's fees resulting from any claim, action or proceeding alleging that the commercial message or sponsorship infringes on any copyright, violates any right of privacy, or other personal or property right, constitutes libelous matter, plagiarism, unfair competition, unfair trade practice, infringement of trademarks, or other matter contrary to law or contains any formula or instructions injurious to the user of a sponsor's product.
2. Sponsors assume liability for all content (including text photographs, representations, illustrations, sketches, maps, labels, trademarks or other copyrighted matter) of sponsorship message printed or placed and also assume responsibility of any claims arising therefrom made against the County.
3. The County is not liable for delays in publication or presentation of sponsorship messages in any event or for any reason, including acts of God, action by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity, lack of funds, fire, flood, insurrection, riot, explosion, embargo, strikes whether legal or illegal, labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slowdown, or any condition beyond the control of the County affecting publication or presentation of sponsorship in any manner.
4. If an error or omission occurs in the publication or placement of any sponsorship message, the County's liability shall be limited to the amount of the reduction in the value of the sponsorship due to the error or omission, but in no event shall liability exceed the total cost payable for the sponsorship space.
5. The words "a paid sponsorship", or some like term, may be added to sponsorship messages that, in the sole opinion of the County, might be confused with editorial matter.
IX. ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS
A. USE OF FUNDS
All funds derived from the acceptance and placement of sponsorship messages shall be recorded, accounted for an used by the department, office, or related entity for authorized purposes in accordance with applicable, standard policies and procedures adopted by the Board of County Commissioners for the budgeting and expenditure of funds.
B. SPECIAL EVENTS
Nothing in this Policy shall be interpreted to prohibit the conduct of special events by the County or its offices, departments or related entities and the use and recognition of sponsors, products, sales or prizes, including the United Way, Arts and Science Council campaigns or similar programs and events.
C. ETHICAL CONDUCT
All offices, departments, and related entities of Mecklenburg County and its employees shall follow the highest level of ethical standards dealing with sponsors or in the implementation of this Policy.
This Policy shall be and become effective upon adoption by the Board of Commissioners and shall thereafter apply to the acceptance and placement of sponsorship messages as provided in the Policy; provided, however, that sponsorship messages which were made prior to the adoption of this Policy shall not be considered in violation of the Policy, and to the extent possible shall be construed and completed, if necessary, in the manner most consistent with the Policy.