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Employees & Officials

Someone offers me a gift, meal, or invitation.

You are paid to act only in the City’s best interest. Decisions you make and actions you take as a City employee must not be affected, or even appear to be affected, by any gift or other benefit you might receive from someone who stands to benefit from that decision or action.

For all City employees and officials

If you’re any City employee or official, you are subject to the City Charter, the City Ethics Code, and the State Ethics Act.

Section 10-105 of the City Charter prohibits any paid City official or employee from soliciting or accepting any gratuity – which could be a gift, meal, or invitation – for any “act or omission in the course of his work.”  In other words, you must decline anything offered to you because of something you did or did not do as part of your City job. 

Section 20-604 of the City Ethics Code prohibits the solicitation or receipt of any substantial gift, loan, gratuity favor or service that might reasonably be expected to influence you in the discharge of your official duties.

Section 1103(c) of the State Ethics Act prohibits certain City employees from soliciting or accepting anything of monetary value (which includes a gift, loan, political contribution, reward, or promise of future employment) based on any understanding that it would influence you.

In determining whether a particular situation would violate these provisions, good rules of thumb to keep in mind are:

  • If time permits, ask for advice from the Ethics Board before you take action.
  • Apply the “six o’clock news” test: decline the gift/benefit if you wouldn’t want it reported on the six o’clock news.
  • When in doubt, just say no thank you.
  • If pressed to accept a gift, meal, or invitation, explain that accepting it would get you in trouble. Suggest that the citizen instead write a note of appreciation to your supervisor.
  • If something is left for you that’s a difficult-to-return or perishable item (such as a fruit basket or flowers delivered by a third party), notify your supervisor of its receipt, put it out for co-workers to consume, and send a note to the giver thanking him/her for the item and asking that s/he refrain from sending anything else. Here’s a sample note you can use for this purpose:
  • If something is left for you that can be easily returned, notify your supervisor and return it with a note to the giver politely explaining that you cannot keep it. Here’s a sample note you can use for this purpose.

For all City executive agency members under the jurisdiction of the mayor

If you’re a member of a City executive agency under the jurisdiction of the mayor, you are governed not only by the rules alone, but also by the Mayor’s Executive Order on Gifts, 3-11. The Executive Order is the most restrictive because it prohibits gifts regardless of the giver’s intentions.

Specifically, Executive Order 03-11:
-- Prohibits City executive department officials and employees and members of boards and commissions from soliciting or accepting any
-- gift
-- gratuity
-- favor
-- invitation
-- food
-- drink
-- loan that is not commercially reasonable and made in the ordinary course of business
from any person with business with the City or whose interests may be affected by the covered official’s or employee’s performance or nonperformance of his/her official duties.
-- Prohibits persons from offering the above items to covered City officials and employees.
-- Covers City Board and Commission members -- they are prohibited from receiving gifts from persons who have or are expected to have business before their Boards/Commissions.
-- Requires covered City employees who receive prohibited gift offers to report those offers to the Chief Integrity Officer and to the Inspector General.
-- Provides limited exceptions that allow:
-- acceptance of gifts and other items offered by friends/relatives unrelated to city business
-- acceptance of widely-offered promotional offers of discounts on goods/services
-- acceptance of nominal tokens of appreciation or mementos at public appearances
-- infrequent acceptance of food/drink of nominal value at meetings held at a place of business where necessary to continue the meeting and where served to all participants
-- “gifts to the city,” where the gift furthers a legitimate public purpose and when offered to the appointing authority, for the City’s benefit, rather than a particular employee or official
-- Provides for sanctions for those who offer gifts to covered City employees and officials, up to and including debarment from City contracts.

-- Provides the Chief Integrity Officer with authority to issue waivers.

If you are offered a gift or invitation to an event because of your position as a City official or employee, thank the person who offered it but politely decline. If pressed by a well-meaning citizen to accept a token of appreciation, you might explain that accepting it would get you in trouble and suggest that the citizen instead write a note of appreciation to your supervisor. If a gift or invitation is left for you at your workplace or elsewhere, forward the gift or invitation to the head of your department/agency. He or she will return the gift or decline attendance to the event with a note explaining why the return/declination is necessary. Here’s a sample note to use to politely decline the gift or invitation:

You must send a copy of the note to the Inspector General, Amy Kurland, at Amy.Kurland@phila.gov or 601 Walnut St, Suite 300 East Philadelphia, PA 19106.

If something is left for you that’s a difficult-to-return or perishable item (such as a fruit basket or flowers delivered by a third party), notify your supervisor of its receipt, put it out for co-workers to consume, and send a note to the giver thanking him/her for the item and asking that s/he refrain from sending anything else. Here’s a sample note you can use for this purpose:

Again, you must send a copy of the note to the Inspector General, Amy Kurland, at Amy.Kurland@phila.gov or 601 Walnut St, Suite 300 East, Philadelphia, PA 19106.

The Mayor’s Executive Order on Gifts contains very limited exceptions to the gift/invitation prohibition. See Section 2 of the Executive Order. Please remember, though, you may never accept cash or a gift card in any amount.

If you receive a “gift to the City”

In exceptional circumstances, an invitation or gift might be considered a gift to the City, rather than to you personally. It usually applies to invitations (most typically, a conference or reception) rather than to tangible items. If acceptance of a gift or attendance at an event would benefit the City more than the invitee, it may not necessarily violate the gift prohibition.

If an administration official or employee receives an otherwise prohibited invitation to a meal or event, the agency/department head must decide if the invitee is the logical person to represent the City at the event. This approving official must articulate a legitimate, justification for why the City should be represented at the event and why the invitee is the logical City employee to be that representative. Things to consider include whether the number of invitees is appropriate, whether there are unnecessary (or lavish) extras unrelated to the governmental purpose, and whether the City would be willing to spend money for the purpose ostensibly benefitting the City.

If you have any questions about whether a gift or invitation offered to you is either an exception to the Mayor’s Executive Order or would be a “gift to the City,” please contact the City’s Chief Integrity Officer at 215-686-2178 or integrity@phila.gov. If anyone offers you a gift or invitation that appears intended as a bribe, promptly contact the Inspector General’s Office at 215-686-1770, or oig@phila.gov.

If City officials and employees outside of the executive branch have any questions about whether an otherwise prohibited gift or invitation might constitute a “gift to the City,” seek advice from the Ethics Board at (215) 686-9450 or http://www.phila.gov/ethicsboard/advice.html. If you’re concerned that a gift or invitation appears intended as a bribe, promptly contact the Inspector General’s Office at 215-686-2178 or oig@phila.gov.

How Do I Handle...

IntegrityWorks offers guidance for commonly-occurring situations. These are not the only situations in which ethics rules would apply; they are simply the most common ones. Other guidance may be added to this site as situations warrant.

These are general guidelines. Because each situation presents its own set of facts, this general guidance isn’t advice on which you can legally rely. If you want to be absolutely sure that your conduct complies with applicable ethics laws, you should seek advice before taking action.