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Thread: Accepting Gifts

  1. #1
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    Accepting Gifts

    I was always told public employees can not accept gifts over a certain amount, say $5. However, I know a lot of teachers who, every year around Christmas, come home with tons of gifts over the allowed amount. Are teachers generally exempt from this law or is it not enforced? Also, do Christmas presents count as gifts if everyone gets one? For example, if a board-member wanted to take you out to lunch, would that be in violation of the law? What if a board member buys you a gift over the exempted amount. Is this legal because he is not seeking out a financial benefit from you?

    I'm just curious around this time of year...
    I burned down the church to atone for my transgressions.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Rygor's avatar
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    My bosses sometimes get gifts from engineering firms, business owners, certain citizens, etc. at this time of year, usually candies or something else edible. They just share it with the rest of the office. I think if you share it it's okay. As far as the value of a gift and whether it's okay or not to accept it, I think it depends on your employers policies.
    "When life gives you lemons, just say 'No thanks'." - Henry Rollins

  3. #3
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    I have always wondered about this too. It seems like people accept Christmas gifts all the time. I remember my office always used to get platters of cookies, popcorn, nuts, candy, and other assorted items around this time of year. The givers of these gifts included board members, members of the community, as well as local developers, businesses, and consultants. It was typically food that was meant for staff to share throughout the day. I think if it's food for everyone to share and eat at work and it's not that outlandish, it was fine.

    I remember in a public administration class though, the professor seemed very adamant about public employees not accepting gifts. He was a former city manager and said when a gift like food arrived and he couldn't give it back, he would take it over to the local nursing home.

    I always thought the anti-gift policy was mainly for the big gifts and personal gifts (i.e. tickets to sporting events and entertainment events), large gift cards, vacations, clothes, electronics, etc. I never thought it was meant to include food that was consumed at work and available for the whole staff but rather personal gifts, especially those that were meant as a bribe.

    As for teachers, I don't know, maybe they are exempt? I remember my teachers in elementary school would get gifts from pretty much every student. It was like sacrilege to not get the teacher a gift. My mom was a preschool teacher and one of our Christmas trees is about one-third full of ornaments she received as a teacher. Granted, most of her preschool teaching was at a church, but I imagine public preschool teachers probably receive just as much.
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  4. #4
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    I was always told public employees can not accept gifts over a certain amount, say $5. However, I know a lot of teachers who, every year around Christmas, come home with tons of gifts over the allowed amount. Are teachers generally exempt from this law or is it not enforced? Also, do Christmas presents count as gifts if everyone gets one? For example, if a board-member wanted to take you out to lunch, would that be in violation of the law? What if a board member buys you a gift over the exempted amount. Is this legal because he is not seeking out a financial benefit from you?

    I'm just curious around this time of year...
    Generally it is all policies set by your employer. While public officials should not be accepting any gifts IMO, I am not aware of any law specifically advising what can and can not be accepted.
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

  5. #5
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    The gift policy at a couple of places I worked was "if you can't eat it, you can't accept it".
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    The gift policy at a couple of places I worked was "if you can't eat it, you can't accept it".
    I like that!

    Engineers try to give the office gifts of food. The boss sends them back, without a note that explains that it's office policy not to accept it. I've also heard her say that she reimburses some of them with a personal check.

  7. #7
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    I guess the policy of "don't ask, don't tell" won't work in this case.

    Platters of food were delivered to our office last Friday--cold cuts, cheese, bread, desserts. We shared with other departments. It's almost gone. Given the economy, I think that's all we're getting this year.
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  8. #8
    One tub of pretzels this year gives you an idea of how the local economy is doing.

    The City policy is nothing over $25. My holiday policy for my department is identical to places Dan worked. The rest of the year, everything is verboten.
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  9. #9
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    Our policy is $25. We don't accept anything though unless it is around Christmas. I think it is the intent of the gift. If you buy us a tin of popcorn and say thanks for working with us this year - I don't think it clouds anyones judgment (unless you are in a carmel corn bliss). Now if you bought us tickets to a football game or a concert - even if they were only $25 I don't think we would be taking them.

    We receive around 100 cards and probably 20-30 "gifts" - chocolate, peanuts, cookies, popcorn, etc. - around this season. I see none of it as a problem. Mostly they are cheap gifts from companies that we spent a lot of money with during the year.
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  10. #10
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    The folks in our finance and business development sections receive gifts of food all year long and it always goes out in to the kitchen or one of the other common areas for all to share.

    For the past four years, I've been in the top 2 or 3 in a yearly statewide data collection competition sponsored by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and I always get a pretty good prize. The first year I checked with multiple levels of management to make sure it was alright to accept it (and it wasn't something I could easily share) and they said it was not a problem.

    I remember when I was growing up, my dad was a logistics manager for an automotive supplier and starting in early November through January he would be bringing home a constant stream of gift baskets full of hams, turkeys, liquor, chocolates, fruits, sausages, cheese, crackers, nuts, etc... I loved it! When he retired, sure it was nice to have him home more but the gift basket supply quickly dried up!
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    My muni's gift policy is that if it cannot be shared by the department, we cannot accept. Nor do we accept gifts for applications that are open, (i.e. not approved, nor finaled)

    So far I have been offered a free dinner at a fabulous restaurant, an "edible bouquet", and a massage. I have had to turn them all down .

    At my old gig i never turned down gifts. That included rounds of golf at courses owned by clients, private flight to vegas, and numerous dinners, bar outings etc. Makes one long for the days excess...
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    Basically what gedunker said and we share with the entire department.

    Don't forget about your AICP ethical standards too.
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  13. #13
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    At my old gig i never turned down gifts. That included rounds of golf at courses owned by clients, private flight to vegas, and numerous dinners, bar outings etc. Makes one long for the days excess...
    BTW, this was prior to AICP, so it didn't apply
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  14. #14
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gedunker View post
    One tub of pretzels this year gives you an idea of how the local economy is doing.

    The City policy is nothing over $25. My holiday policy for my department is identical to places Dan worked. The rest of the year, everything is verboten.
    Very similar here, except the firms are doing a little better. We've gotten a ton of sweets this year.

    Also an odd pattern here, even for a small town... we've had three random little old ladies drop off homemade pies, cookies, etc. for no reason other than to be friendly. All three live in the old historic neighborhood behind the city hall annex.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    I worked at one county where the Planning Director sent anything we received to the battered women's shelter (can't argue with that). And no matter what state law said, we could not accept as much as a 50-cent coke from anyone.

    Then I spent 7 yrs in another planning dept where we didn't get much but ate well during the holidays from all the platters the Building Dept got. Then spent 5 yrs in another division with the same county where the boss poured any liquor down the drain and no matter which office got the platter/tray, we had to put it out for all to share (can't argue with that, either, except maybe for the part about pouring out the booze...).

    I have known a bunch of people my age who first worked in the upper midwest who'd get cases of hard liquor from developers over the holidays. I've never seen it down here, though.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    Speaking of gifts and ethics... would it be ethical to bring in a tray of my boss's favorite cheeses and salami tomorrow? After all, he begins cutting bonus checks next week!

  17. #17
    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by TerraSapient View post
    Speaking of gifts and ethics... would it be ethical to bring in a tray of my boss's favorite cheeses and salami tomorrow? After all, he begins cutting bonus checks next week!
    I guess you'll know when he cuts the cheese.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

  18. #18
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by ofos View post
    I guess you'll know when he cuts the cheese.
    I got in a little trouble at another job when I asked the boss to come in to cut the cheese from one of our Christmas trays.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    I'm still enjoying my $150 bottle of Cognac I received many years ago, occasionally I do share it.

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    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    They headed down to, ooh, old el paso
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