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Gifts and Gratuities (G.L. c. 268A, § 3) Legal Opinions

Formal legal opinions by the State Ethics Commission addressing G.L. c. 268A, § 3
  • EC-COI-80-43

    What issues arise from a member of the General Court and an attorney engaged in the private practice of law who has entered into an office-sharing arrangement with other attorneys, one of whom is a registered legislative agent?

  • EC-COI-83-39

    A state employee attending a conference whose expenses were paid by the Commonwealth may keep a door prize because the winning number was drawn from a pool consisting of the ticket stubs of conference participants, and the state employee did not know whether the prize was provided by any of the product exhibitors who may do business with the state employee's state agency.

  • EC-COI-84-114

    A state employee does not violate §§ 3 or 23 of the conflict of interest law if a developer offers a gift of prints to the employee’s agency because the gift is being provided to the agency, and not to the state employee for his personal use.

  • EC-COI-84-101

    A non-profit organization that has entered into a partnership with a state agency such that state agency employees are assigned to work for the non-profit organization is prohibited by § 3 of the conflict of interest law from providing payments to the state employees to work beyond their normal duties.

  • EC-COI-85-42

    The head of state agency ABC, whose members hear and adjudicate cases, is prohibited from accepting a discount mortgage from a long-time attorney acquaintance who practices regularly before the ABC. Although they have known each other many years, they have no history of a significant business or social relationship sufficient to rebut a presumption that the discount, was altered because of the agency head's official duties.

  • EC-COI-85-64

    A municipal fire chief who is responsible for enforcing town fire ordinances may not be paid for working private details in the town, because his detail compensation would be received for performing acts which are the subject of his official responsibility.

  • EC-COI-85-65

    For the reasons described in EC-COI-85-64, a chief of a municipal police department is prohibited from working private details in the town.

  • EC-COI-85-83

    A police chief may generally not be paid for performing private detail work because the chief has official responsibility over subordinate officers who customarily perform private detail work. An exception to this general principle applies, however, when the chief is the only full-time officer on the force and 1) no other town reserve officer, officer in a neighboring community, state police officer or constable is available to work the detail; 2) the chief has made a good faith effort to determine that none of these officers is available; 3) the chief is paid at the same hourly rate as reserve officers and is paid pursuant to statutory detail requirements, and 4) no other town reserve officer is working another detail at the same time.

  • EC-COI-86-14

    A car dealership selected to sell police vehicles to police departments pursuant to a collective bid is prohibited by sections 3 and 23(b)(2) from offering discounts to those officials involved in selecting the dealership to participate in the collective bid.

  • EC-COI-87-7

    A municipal official who is invited to attend an out-of-state event in his official capacity would, by receiving payment or reimbursement for transportation, lodging, and even admission from a private sponsor would violate section 23(b)(2) unless the municipality authorizes the payment or reimbursement

  • EC-COI-87-38

    An employee of a state agency may accept an award of a trip for education purposes paid for by a private company if the state agency does not directly or indirectly regulate the activities of the company, the award is given to the agency and is not a personal gift offered to any particular employee.

  • EC-COI-88-5

    State employees who are assigned to evaluate a prospective vendor may not accept free or subsidized transportation arrangements from the prospective vendor in connection with the evaluation.

  • EC-COI-88-18

    A member of the General Court and also a committee chairman may not attend a conference where the transportation, food, lodging and expenses would be paid for by an association of companies who have a direct interest in matters before his committee.

  • EC-COI-88-20

    A non-profit mental health clinic that has a partnership arrangement with the state may, subject to section 3, offer to state employees who work at the clinic productivity incentive credits for increased work during a normal weekday for use towards acquiring books and other items limited to their official state use but not for conference fees or travel expenses for individual employees. However, where the incentive credit awards are of substantial value and intended to provide multiple remuneration for a state employees' good job, it would normally be a violation of section 3.

  • EC-COI-88-22

    A state agency that operates a transportation facility would not violate sections 3 or 23 by enrolling the agency in a corporate car rental discount program where the car rental company is a tenant of the agency and would be the only car company used by the agency because the discount would not be an item of substantial value given to an individual employee and would be available because of the agency's organizational status rather than because of any landlord-tenant relationship. However, the agency's employees would violate section 23(b)(2) by accepting "frequent flyer bonus points" accruing from their state-funded car rentals because the cumulative value of such points could constitute an item of substantial value and would constitute an unwarranted privilege not available to similarly situated individuals.

  • EC-COI-89-3

    The executive director of the state group insurance commission may accept, for official use by the commission, a donation of consultant services from to a life insurance company which currently holds a contract with the commission. The Commission must observe the safeguards of 23 in connection with its monitoring of the company's performance under the contract.

  • EC-COI-89-4

    A member of the General Court may accept promotional rate tickets for himself and his spouse to conduct a series of substantial speaking engagements. The spouse promotional rate is permissible under an established industry-wide practice available to similarly situated individuals.

  • EC-COI-89-23

    A state agency may accept a gift of a demonstration model software package worth more than $100 from a private software company because the gift is being made to the agency rather than to one or more employee for his or her personal use.  However, employees at the agency may not grant any unwarranted privileges or special consideration to the private company because of the gift to the agency.

  • EC-COI-92-2

    A state legislator may not solicit donations for personal financial assistance from anyone with an interest in legislative business, broadly defined. He may not accept unsolicited donations of $50 or more from anyone with such an interest, nor from any combination of persons with a common interest in the same legislative business.

  • EC-COI-92-19

    Section 3 prohibits a private communications corporation from offering, and selectmen from accepting, seats in a corporate box for Red Sox games, because the tickets would be given for or because of the recipients' municipal positions and the cost per seat to the corporation would be of substantial value ($50.00 or more).

  • EC-COI-92-32

    Section 3 prohibits a non-profit organization from waiving an entrance fee to a fund-raising dinner where the beneficiaries of the waiver are public employees who have had, or likely will have, official dealings with the organization. None of the public officials involved were to participate in the fund-raising dinner as a speaker. In addition, the Commission found that, for purposes of determining whether "substantial value" has been obtained, it will look to the full cost of attending the event as opposed to merely the actual coast of the meal served.

  • EC-COI-92-37

    A member of the General Court is prohibited, by section 3, from accepting free or discounted office space and office furnishings for use as a district office, which is given by an individual or private or public entity who is making the offer as a gesture of good will.

  • EC-COI-92-38

    G.L. c. 268A, section 3 will not prohibit employees of the Executive Office of Economic Affairs from soliciting funds from private businesses who have official dealings with the agency in order to fund an agency program as a statute authorizes the solicitation and the solicitation is for the benefit of the agency, not a particular public employee. Section 23(b)(3) requires that state employees who have official dealings with contributing organizations file a disclosure with their appointing authority.

  • EC-COI-93-8

    G.L. c. 268A, section 3 will not permit a trade organization to provide legislators with an all-expense-paid day at a resort, if the legislators pay a charitable contribution as an entrance fee because the charitable contribution is not earmarked towards and does not cover the expenses of the event. Donations by manufacturers or suppliers which will be used to finance the event will violate section 3 if each manufacturer, at the time of its donation decision, knows that legislators or other public officials will be attending the event, if the manufacturer has an interest in legislative business and if its contribution amounts to $50.00 per invited guest or greater.

  • EC-COI-93-14

    Commission re-affirms its conclusion that $50.00 is the threshold to be used by public employees in determining whether an item is of substantial value for purposes of G.L. c. 268A, section 3 and section 23.

  • EC-COI-94-2

    Section 3 does not apply to items of substantial value which are given to a public employee as the result of an official act of the Commonwealth or a political subdivision thereof. However, section 23(b)(2) will prohibit public employees from using such passes for non-job-related travel, where that usage exceeds $50 in a calendar year.

  • EC-COI-06-4

    The conflict of interest law permits a private nonprofit organization to give, and a public employee who does not regulate or otherwise exercise official power over the giver to accept, an unsolicited, "no strings attached" award of substantial value in bona fide recognition of the public employee's outstanding public service, leadership, dedication or potential. Such an award is not a gift in violation of G. L. c. 268A, section 3 or an unwarranted privilege in violation of section 23(b)(2) of the statute.

  • EC-COI-12-1

    A municipal employee may, consistent with the conflict of interest law, solicit donations to a municipal trust fund from persons and entities with whom he, or other municipal employees, has or expects to have official dealings, provided that (1) the solicitation is carried out in accordance with G.L. c. 44, § 53A; (2) the solicitation is not made in circumstances that are inherently coercive because the person or entity solicited may be directly and significantly affected by a pending or anticipated decision of the same municipality; (3) no overt pressure is exerted in connection with any such solicitation; (4) the municipality and its employees apply objective standards in all dealings with persons and entities solicited, and do not favor those who give or disfavor those who do not; and (5) the municipal employee principally responsible for making such solicitations discloses the names of all those solicited in any manner (oral, written, electronic, or other), by himself or other municipal employees; these disclosures must be made publicly and in writing pursuant to G.L. c. 268A, § 23(b)(3).

Contact   for Gifts and Gratuities (G.L. c. 268A, § 3) Legal Opinions


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