Under the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) Advisory Opinion 08-01, employees are prohibited from soliciting or accepting gifts of more than nominal value when it may be reasonably inferred that the gift:
The Joint Commission recently enacted the Public Integrity Reform Act (PIRA), Chapter 399 of the Laws of 2011. This will be in effect until the commission issues formal guidance on gifts and other related matters. As noted in the commission’s Interim Advisory on Gifts (PDF):
Specifically, the Public Integrity Reform Act amended the definition of “gift” in two ways:
Purchase College employees must adopt an attitude and mode of operation that is above criticism and avoid any type of conduct that would give any suggestion of a conflict of interest. A gift may be in many forms, such as money, service, loan, travel, lodging, meals, refreshments, entertainment, or discounts. The value of a gift is the retail cost to purchase it; the value of a ticket entitling you to food, refreshments, entertainment, etc. is the face value of the ticket; if no value is indicated, the value is the actual cost to the giver.
The underlying principle is the same for multiple gifts, even of nominal value, from a single source given over a 12-month period. Employees “must strive to avoid creating any appearance that would suggest that they are being improperly influenced in discharging their public responsibilities by refusing multiple nominal gifts from the same donor.”
The offer of reciprocity, or even actual reciprocity, does not reduce the value of a gift given to you. You may not designate a friend, family member, or entity (for example, a charity) to receive a gift that you cannot receive.
The full text of Public Officers Law §73 and §74 is available on the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics site.
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