COIB Advisory Opinion: Invitations to Events Sponsored by Not-for-Profit Organizations that are NYC Lobbyists

December 17, 2007

When a not-for-profit organization sponsors an event, may it invite New York City officials and employees? In a recent advisory opinion, the NYC Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) addressed how the local law prohibiting gifts by City lobbyists affects these invitations. According to COIB, the lobbyist-organization may invite City public servants in their official capacities to widely attended fundraising events or exhibit openings it sponsors. These invitations are permissible as “gifts to the City.” In these circumstances, the lobbyist-organization may also provide a complimentary ticket to the public servant’s partner or spouse. Additional tickets may be provided to other members of the public servant’s family only when “there is a nexus between the nature of the event and the identity of the additional invitees.” On the other hand, the organization may not give public servants free admission passes to “members-only” preview events or to exhibitions open to the general public, unless a nexus exists between the public servants’ duties and the exhibition, such as oversight of City funding for the exhibition or overall program. Nonetheless, “bundles” of free passes may be given to the City, and accepted by a responsible public servant, for use by groups of City employees or by the clients or customers of a City agency (e.g., students, in the case of the Department of Education). COIB’s advisory comes with two notable caveats. First, if the sponsoring organization has business dealings with the invitee’s City agency, the City employee may not accept the invitation absent a written determination by the agency head that attendance at the event is in the interests of the City. Further, a registered NYC lobbyist must also comply with the NY State Lobbying Act’s prohibition against gifts, which does not include an express exception for “gifts to the City.”

Tag: New York City