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City of Philadelphia

Rules of the Road

The Rules of the Road are your guide to the most commonly applicable ethics laws and regulations.

State Ethics Act

The State Ethics Act applies to public officials, public employees, candidates and nominees for public office or employment. Important features of the Act are prohibitions against:

  • engaging in conduct that constitutes a conflict of interest between the individual’s position with the City and a financial interest held by the individual, the individual’s family member, or the individual’s or family member’s business;
  • seeking or accepting improper influence;
  • accepting honoraria, which are gifts or tokens of appreciation for a speaking engagement or the like;
  • soliciting or accepting payments contingent on the assumption or acceptance of public employment;
  • contracting with the governmental body by the official/employee’s spouse or child, unless through an open and public process;
  • representation for compensation before a governmental body by former official/employee of that body for one year after leaving office; and,
  • voting on official matters where a conflict of interest exists.
Section 1104 of the State Ethics Act also requires public officials, certain public employees, candidates, and nominees to file annual financial disclosure forms.

City Charter Article 10

The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter outlines the powers, duties, and structure of City government. Any changes to the Charter must be approved by voters on Election Day (whereas the Philadelphia Code is the legislation that is passed by City Council and approved by the Mayor). Article 10 of the Charter prohibits City officers, employees, and certain boards and commission members from engaging in certain kinds of activity, including:

  • Having a direct or indirect interest in any contract with the City of Philadelphia
  • Accepting gratuities for any act or omission in the performance of his/her work
  • Soliciting political contributions
  • Engaging in political activity (for non-elected officials and employees)

City Ethics Code

The City’s code of laws contains a section called “Standards of Conduct and Ethics,” known informally as the Ethics Code. It applies to all City officials and employees, and boards and commissions members. The Ethics Code generally prohibits:

  • Direct or indirect representation by City officials/employees in any business interest before the City of Philadelphia, outside of the official’s/employee’s scope of official duties;
  • Assistance from former City officials/employees to any person in any transaction, in which the official/employee participated in during his/her City service or employment;
  • Solicitation or acceptance of gifts worth more than $99 in the aggregate per calendar year from someone either seeking official action from a City employee or official or who has a financial interest at the time, or in close proximity to the time the gift is received, for which the City employee or official is able to substantially affect through official action.  Limited exceptions exist as detailed in Section 20-604(3);
  • Direct or indirect disclosure of confidential information concerning the property, government or affairs of the City without proper legal authorization;
  • Conflicts between the official’s or employee’s financial interest, or that of family members or business interests, and the official’s or employee’s official action; and,
  • Directly or indirectly disclosing confidential City information to advance the financial interest of the City official/employee or others.

Section 20-610 of the City Ethics Code also requires certain public officials, and all City boards and commissions members, file annual financial disclosure forms with the City’s Department of Records and independent Ethics Board.

Mayor's Executive Order on Gifts, #10-16

The Mayor's Executive Order on Gifts, 10-16 prohibits the solicitation or acceptance of gifts and other benefits by City officers and employees in the Executive Branch, as well as members of Boards and Commissions over whom the Mayor has appointment and removal authority. This represents approximately 85% of the City's workforce. The Executive Order on Gifts provides for stricter limitations on the acceptance of gifts by those covered by the Executive Order than the requirements found in Section 20-604 of the Philadelphia Code. The main provisions of the Executive Order are summarized here; however, we strongly encourage you to read the Executive Order to learn more.

The Executive Order on Gifts prohibits City officers and employees from soliciting or accepting cash and gifts of any value from prohibited sources. A prohibited source includes Registered Lobbyists and any person who, at the time or within 12 months preceding the time a gift is received by a City officer or employee is:
  • Seeking or has sought official action from that officer or employee; or
  • Has operations or activities regulated by that officer’s or employee’s department, agency, office, Board or Commission (for Cabinet members, this includes all Executive branch departments); or 
  • Has a financial or other substantial interest in acts or omissions taken by that officer or employee which he/she is able to affect through official action.
The Executive Order on Gifts provides for limited exceptions that allow the acceptance of gifts from prohibited sources in the following situations:
  • Food, beverages or entertainment provided at a reception that is open to the public for which no ticket purchase is necessary or invitation required. 
  • Promotional offers or discounts on goods, services, drink or entertainment when offered to a large group of employees (i.e., all City employees).
  • Attendance, entertainment, food and beverage at a celebration of a major life event (e.g., wedding, retirement, milestone birthday). Officers and employees, however, may not accept monetary gifts or gifts worth more than $99 in the aggregate per calendar year from prohibited sources. 
  • Light refreshments – such as soft drinks, coffee, sandwiches, salads – at meetings held at a place of business where necessary to continue the meeting and where served to all participants. Does not apply to meals at outside-the-office venues. 
  • Items of little intrinsic value – such as greeting cards, water bottles, t-shirts, certificates -- at public appearances, visits, speeches or presentations.
  • Gifts resulting solely from membership in a bona fide charitable, professional, education, labor or trade organization when generally made available to the same class of members of such entities.
  • Gifts resulting solely from a City officer’s or employee’s spouse’s or life partner’s business or employment activities. Known as the “plus one” exception. 
  • Items that are perishable – such as flowers or food -- and not practical to return. (To qualify, an item must be donated to charity, shared with co-workers or destroyed within three days.) 
  • Gifts from a government entity.
  • “Gifts to the City,” which include gifts that have a legitimate governmental purpose (e.g., conference, training); or cannot be returned to the donor because they are too large or cost-prohibitive; or are received from anonymous donors; or are donated in response to a solicitation of contributions from City officers or employees to further the goals or initiatives of the Executive branch (i.e. Community Schools), without the expectation of private benefit in return or any special treatment promised or accorded. 
According to the Executive Order on Gifts, the following items are not considered “gifts:”
  • Gifts from family members (e.g., parents, children, siblings, aunt, uncle, like relative in-laws) when the circumstances make clear that a family relationship is the motivation for giving the gift. 
  • Commercially reasonable loans made in the ordinary course of business, e.g., home mortgage.
  • Reportable political contributions. 
The Executive Order on Gifts also prohibits persons from offering gifts to City officers or employees and provides sanctions for those who offer gifts, up to and including debarment from City contracts.

The Executive Order also provides guidance on the acceptance of gifts from other City employees, specifically in superior-subordinate relationships.

The Chief Integrity Officer provides oversight for the implementation of the Executive Order on Gifts and can approve waivers to its provisions. If you have questions about the Executive Order on Gifts, please contact the Chief Integrity Officer.

We also have resources available for City employees that help explain what to do when you receive a gift, including this video and helpful one-page guide.

In addition to the Executive Order on Gifts, three additional Executive Orders are also in place that govern:

Nepotism, Executive Order 01-11
Outside Employment, Executive Order 12-16
Sexual Harassment and Sexual Favoritism, Executive Order 04-11

All Mayoral Executive Orders can be found here.

Procurement and Contracting

There are two main types of contracts awarded by the City:  competitively bid contracts for supplies, equipment, non-professional services, construction, and concession; and, non-competitively bid contracts for professional services.  For both types of contracts, when the value of the purchase is anticipated to exceed $32,000 (as adjusted periodically), the City must issue a public notice of contracting or bid opportunity, except in very limited circumstances (ex:  where there is a threat to public health and safety).

Competitively Bid Contracts: City Home Rule Charter, Article 8, Section 8-200 of the City Charter governs City procurement of supplies, equipment, non-professional services (ex: HVAC maintenance, repair services, snow removal), construction, and concessions. It generally requires that all such procurement occur through a competitive, sealed-bidding process, under which these contracts are awarded to the bidder who submits the lowest responsible and responsive bid.  

The Procurement Department is the central purchasing and materials management agency for the City. It is responsible for managing competitively-bid contracts and acquiring supplies, equipment, non-professional services, and construction at the best price for the City while ensuring a fair and open procurement process.  Contact the Procurement Department at 215-686-4720 or

Non-Competitively Bid Contracts: Chapter 17-1400 of the City Code governs procurement of professional services contracts.  Unlike competitively-bid contracts that must be awarded to the lowest, responsive and responsible bidder, professional services contracts may be awarded based upon a number of different criteria (ex:  prior experience), including cost.  Where the lowest-cost proposal is not selected, the contracting agency or department must publicly justify its selection.  Despite the name, non-competitively bid contracts must undergo a competitive process, except in very limited circumstances.

This law is intended to eliminate both real and perceived favoritism in the award of City contracts and financial assistance based on political contributions – in other words, to eliminate “pay to play” contracting. 

It generally:
  • Prohibits the award of City professional services contracts or financial assistance to persons whose campaign contributions exceed contribution limits
  • Requires applicants to disclose:
    • Campaign contributions to candidates and officials in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and political action committees acting on their behalf
    • Consultants, or lobbyists, used to assist in obtaining business from the City 
    • The identity of any City official who solicited money from the applicant or its representatives Subcontractors the applicant intends to use 
    • The identity of any City official who recommended a person or firm to satisfy any minority, woman, disabled, or disadvantaged enterprise requirement 
The law requires public posting of: 
  • contracting opportunities/RFPs worth more than $32,000 
  • campaign contribution disclosure forms from all applicants 
  • the selected vendor’s name and the City’s rationale for the selection 
The website for non-competitively bid contracts is eContract Philly and is operated by the Finance Department's Contract Legislation Unit. Contact the Finance Department at 215-686-4914 or at

Financial assistance also under Chapter 17-1400
To encourage development or activities that benefit the public, the City occasionally offers financial assistance such as grants, tax incentives, or financing as subsidies. Recipients of financial assistance, valued at more than $50,000, must also disclose campaign contributions.

If you have questions about whether a transaction is Financial Assistance or you would like to view the disclosure reports from Financial Assistance recipients, please contact eContract Philly at 215-686-4914 or at

Contact Us

Office of the Chief Integrity Officer
City Hall, Room 215
Philadelphia, PA 19107