- State Ethics Commission
Boston, MA — With many wishing to express appreciation to public employees such as public safety personnel and first responders during the current public health emergency, the State Ethics Commission reminds state, county, and municipal employees that accepting certain gifts may be prohibited by law. In general, public employees may not accept gifts or discounts worth $50 or more that are given because of their public position or because of an official act. For example, an individual firefighter could not accept a $50 gift card given as thanks for responding to an emergency.
Gifts given to a public agency for the agency’s use, rather than gifts given to individual public employees, do not generally violate the conflict of interest law. For example, a gift of food or gift cards does not violate the conflict of interest law if the gift is provided to the public agency rather than a specific employee because the gift is for public, rather than private, use. The agency, however, must have the legal authority to accept gifts, and proper procedures must be followed to accept them.
A detailed explanation of how the conflict of interest law applies to gifts is available in State Ethics Commission Advisory 19-1: Gifts and Gratuities.
The Commission encourages public employees to contact its Legal Division at 617-371-9500 for free advice if they have any questions regarding how the conflict of interest law may apply to themselves.