NY Commission on Public Integrity Revises Proposed Regulations

April 19, 2011

The NY Commission on Public Integrity (CPI) recently announced that it had revised proposed two sets of regulations regarding gifts, including those made by lobbyists and those received by State officers and employees.  The CPI initially proposed the regulations last summer. For example, by law, complimentary attendance, food or beverages offered by the sponsor of an event that is "widely attended" and related to the attendee's duties or responsibilities as a public official are not considered gifts. Pursuant to the proposed regulation, a "widely attended event"  would now be defined as "an event that is intended to be open to a large number of persons, a substantial number of which must include invitees who are not members, employees or agents of the sponsoring organization, their spouses or public officials."   Previously, the proposed definition would have required that the attendees must "represent a broad and diverse range of interest in a given subject matter" and that the "event must provide the opportunity for an exchange of ideas and opinions among those in attendance." Another change related to the widely attended event exception is in the standard for whether the event is related to the public official's duties or responsibilities: under the proposed rules for lobbyists, the answer would be “yes”, if the event "includes a presentation of information and an exchange of ideas and opinions among those in attendance about an issue or issues that are related to the public official’s official duties."  The previous, much briefer rule would have required "as its principal purpose promoting the exchange of information about an issue or issues of public interest." Additionally, food and beverage of a nominal amount, which is permissible, would expressly allow "non-alcoholic beverages such as regular coffee, tea, water and soft drinks” and "snack items such as cookies, crackers, or pretzels."  Query: the beverages are enumerated conjunctively (“and”), whereas the snacks are enumerated disjunctively (“or”).  Does the proposal mean that the exception for nominal value would allow provision of multiple beverages, but only one kind of snack? Since these changes are considered "substantial changes" an additional comment period is required.  The CPI has, however, indicated that it will use the proposed regulations as the basis for staff guidance.

Tag: New York State