Chapter 268A of the General Laws governs your conduct as a public official or employee. Below are some of the general rules that you must follow. You could face civil and criminal penalties if you take a prohibited action. Many aspects of the law are complicated and there are often exemptions to the general rules. We encourage you to seek legal advice from the Commission or your agency's legal counsel regarding how the law would apply to you in a particular situation.

In general:

  • You may not ask for or accept anything (regardless of its value), if it is offered in exchange for your agreeing to perform or not perform an official act.

  • You may not ask for or accept anything worth $50 or more from anyone with whom you have official dealings. Examples of prohibited "gifts" include: sports tickets, costs of drinks and meals, travel expenses, conference fees, gifts of appreciation, entertainment expenses, free use of vacation homes and complimentary tickets to charitable events. If a prohibited gift is offered: you may refuse or return it; you may donate it to a non-profit organization, provided you do not take the tax write-off; you may pay the giver the full value of the gift; or, in the case of certain types of gifts, it may be considered "a gift to your public employer", provided it remains in the office and does not ever go home with you. You may not accept honoraria for a speech that is in any way related to your official duties, unless you are a state legislator.

  • You may not hire, promote, supervise, or otherwise participate in the employment of your immediate family or your spouse's immediate family.

  • You may not take any type of official action that will affect the financial interests of your immediate family or your spouse's immediate family. For instance, you may not participate in a licensing or inspection process involving a family member's business.

  • You may not take any official action affecting your own financial interest, or the financial interest of a business partner, private employer, or any organization for which you serve as an officer, director or trustee. For instance: you may not take any official action regarding an "after hours" employer, or its geographic competitors; you may not participate in licensing, inspection, zoning or other issues that affect a company you own, or its competitors; if you serve on the Board of a non-profit organization (that is substantially engaged in business activities), you may not take any official action which would impact that organization, or its competitors.

  • Unless you qualify for an exemption, you may not have more than one job with the same municipality or county, or more than one job with the state.

  • Except under special circumstances, you may not have a financial interest in a contract with your public employer. For example, if you are a full time town employee, a company you own may not be a vendor to that town unless you meet specific criteria, the contract is awarded by a bid process, and you publicly disclose your financial interest.

  • You may not represent anyone but your public employer in any matter in which your public employer has an interest. For instance, you may not contact other government agencies on behalf of a company, an association, a friend, or even a charitable organization.

  • You may not ever disclose confidential information, data or material which you gained or learned as a public employee.

  • Unless you make a proper, public disclosure in writing -- including all the relevant facts -- you may not take any action that could create an appearance of impropriety, or could cause an impartial observer to believe your official actions are tainted with bias or favoritism.

  • You may not use your official position to obtain unwarranted privileges, or any type of special treatment, for yourself or anyone else. For instance: you may not approach your subordinates, vendors whose contracts you oversee, or people who are subject to your official authority to propose private business dealings.

  • You may not use public resources for political or private purposes. Examples of "public resources" include: office computers, phones, fax machines, postage machines, copiers, official cars, staff time, sick time, uniforms, and official seals.

  • You may not, after leaving public service, take a job involving public contracts or any other particular matter in which you participated as a public employee.