On-line Ethics Training: Gifts
More information can be found in the relevant section of Plain Language Ethics Guide.
To begin by looking at the applicable statutory provisions:
- Section 14 of the New Jersey Conflicts of Interest Law prohibits direct or indirect acceptance of any thing of value that a State officer or employee knows or has reason to believe is offered with the intent to influence. It also prohibits acceptance through a spouse, any member of the family, or any partner or associate.
- Section 23(e)(6) of the Conflicts Law prohibits acceptance of any thing of value under circumstances from which it might reasonably be inferred that the thing of value was offered for the purpose of influencing the discharge of official duties.
- Section 24 of the Conflicts Law prohibits soliciting, receiving, or agreeing to receive any compensation, reward, employment, gift, or other thing of value from a source other than the State for any matter related to official duties.
A gift may be any tangible or intangible item of value such as:
- reasonable fees for published works;
- travel expenses not paid by the State;
- a service, cash, entertainment, hospitality, a gratuity, or a favor; or
- travel, a discount, a loan, or forbearance of a loan.
Section 24 does not apply to solicitation or acceptance of campaign contributions for an announced candidate for elective public office. A gift is not:
- snacks such as coffee, donuts, or bagels;
- greeting cards or items of little intrinsic value such as plaques, certificates, and trophies;
- anything for which you paid fair market value;
- anything of value accepted by the government under statutory authority;
- opportunities and benefits, including favorable rates and commercial discounts, available to the public or all government employees; or
- pens, calendars, mugs, or other items of trivial or nominal value.
It is frequently prudent to decline a gift if you believe it would give the appearance of favoritism or a loss of impartiality — even though it meets the exception criteria.
What should you do when you receive a gift? Immediately report it to your ethics liaison officer. Your ELO will determine:
- whether the gift was given with an intent to influence or reward performance of official duties or
- whether use of the item will create an impression of a conflict of interest.
If either of these conditions is satisfied, the ELO shall return the gift to the donor. In the case of perishables like flowers or fruit, the ELO may donate the item to a nonprofit entity like a hospital, nursing home, or soup kitchen.