Bah Hum-Bug: Gift Giving During the Holidays
December 14, 2009
The holidays are upon us and so are the various gifts that companies send out annually during this time. Whether it’s a small calendar or an expensive bottle of wine, it is important to be aware of the various gift restrictions that apply when the gifts are made to public officials. The restrictions change depending on the jurisdiction, who is giving the gift and the recipient of the gift. This article is the first in a series that will examine gift laws under New York, New Jersey and Federal law. First up: New York. New York State The New York Public Officers Law prohibits state officers and employees from accepting gifts of more than nominal value under circumstances where it may reasonably be inferred that the gift was intended to influence the State officer or employee in the performance of his or her official duties. Additionally, lobbyists and lobbyist-clients are prohibited from giving gifts of more than nominal value to public officials “unless under the circumstances it is not reasonable to infer that the gift was intended to influence such public official.” The New York Public Integrity Commission, which enforces the gift laws, does not define “nominal value” with a dollar amount, but states that “nominal value is considered such a small amount that acceptance of an item of nominal value could not be reasonably interpreted or construed as attempting to influence a State employee or public official.” There are exceptions to these prohibitions, which allow gifts in certain circumstances, including promotional items with little resale value such as pens, mugs or calendars, which bear an organization’s name or logo and gifts based on personal friendships. New York City New York City law also restricts gifts over $50 to City public servants from any person or firm that does, or intends to do business with the City. Separately, New York City imposes a ban against registered City lobbyists making any gifts to NYC public servants.