Tis the season to review the City’s gift-giving policy
With the holiday season in full swing, it’s a good time to review the City policy that governs gift giving among employees and from people outside the City. Here’s what you need to know about the rules.
Gifts among employees
Gifts to supervisors
An employee may give a gift to a supervisor and a supervisor may receive a gift from a subordinate if the gift is:
- A gift given for a traditional occasion, such as a holiday or a birthday, as long as the gift is not cash and is worth $25 or less.
- For a major life event, including a gift given by a group of employees and paid for with voluntary contributions (each contributing $25 or less).
- Food shared in the office.
- Personal hospitality at one’s home or a gift to a host or hostess.
- A gift given because of a family or personal relationship between the employees that would justify the gift.
- Sick leave transferred as part of the sick leave transfer program.
Gifts to subordinates
Supervisors should use prudence when deciding whether to give a gift to a subordinate.
Solicitation of employees for gifts
When asking other employees for money for a group gift:
- A recommended contribution amount may be stated ($25 or less), but the request must also indicate that employees are free to contribute less or nothing at all.
- Supervisors may organize a collection of donations for a gift but may not solicit gifts or contributions face-to-face from their subordinates.
Gifts from people outside the City
The most important thing to remember: You are viewed as a public servant at all times, not just when engaging in your official duties. During the holidays and throughout the year, gifts should never compromise or appear to compromise your ability to make objective and fair decisions. Even in cases when giving or accepting a gift is permitted, it is sometimes still advisable to refrain from giving or accepting a gift.
Holiday greeting cards
Holiday greeting cards are not gifts, so greeting cards may be given and received without violating the gift policy. (This applies only to greeting cards and not gift cards that can be exchanged for something of value.)
The City’s gift ban
The general rule on gifts in the City’s ethics code: You may not accept a gift from a lobbyist, principal or interested person when you have authority to make decisions regarding the direct financial interests of the gift giver. An interested person:
- Seeks to do business of any kind with the City.
- Engages in activities that are regulated by the City.
- Has a financial interest that may be substantially affected (different from the public generally) by the City’s action or inaction.
An exception exists for a small gift that qualifies as a trinket or memento worth $5 or less. Occasionally another gift exception outlined in the City’s Ethics Code will apply, and the ethics officer can help you make that determination.
As a City employee, always think about the following before accepting a gift:
- Is the giver of the gift a lobbyist, principal or “interested person”?
- Do you have authority to make decisions regarding the gift-giver’s financial interests?
- Does the gift fit one of the gift-ban exceptions in the City’s Ethics Code?
State’s gift bans
The Minnesota gift ban also applies to local officials, which includes the City’s elected officials and employees who file Statements of Economic Interest. This gift ban prohibits a lobbyist or principal from giving a gift or requesting another to give a gift to a local official. The Minnesota gift ban also prohibits a local official from accepting a gift from a lobbyist or principal.
Minnesota’s interested person gift ban prohibits an interested person (see definition above) from giving a gift or requesting another to give a gift to a local official. This gift ban also prohibits a local official from accepting a gift from an interested person.
If you receive a prohibited gift, you should promptly decline it, return it, pay fair market or face value for it, or throw it in the trash. You should also keep a written record of those actions.
If you are unsure about how to comply with these rules, please ask the City’s ethics officer at [email protected].
Published Nov 30, 2016