The State Ethics Commission (“Commission”) has issued a new advisory addressing restrictions that the State’s conflict of interest law places on gifts given to state, county and municipal employees. The new advisory, Advisory 19-1: Gifts and Gratuities, replaces Advisory 04-02 and provides an updated look at the conflict of interest laws regarding gifts, including an extensive list of frequently asked questions (“FAQ”). The advisory also includes new guidance regarding crowdsourced fundraisers, public employee discounts, complimentary meals, and gifts from lobbyists. The advisory follows the Commission’s October 2019 FAQs for Public School Teachers which addresses gifts and travel expenses for teachers.
As a general reminder, unless an exemption applies, the State’s conflict of interest law prohibits public employees from accepting gifts worth $50 or more that are given because of their public position, or for or because of an official act he or she has performed or will perform in the future. Gifts valued under $50 (that are not bribes) may be accepted, however, under certain circumstances an employee may still have to file a disclosure to dispel the appearance of a conflict of interest.
If you have questions about this advisory or a conflict of interest situation, contact your NMP attorney for guidance.