Opinion  EC-COI-84-114

Date: 10/16/1984
Organization: State Ethics Commission

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.

Table of Contents


You are an official with state agency ABC and previously were employed by state agency DEF.[1] One of the projects that DEF worked on was a development. The developer you worked with during that period of time recently commissioned an artist to create a series of prints. You state that these prints would likely be valued at over $50.00. The developer would like to offer these prints as a gift to ABC. The developer does not presently have any business with ABC, and it is unclear whether it will have any such business in the future.


 Would G.L. c. 268A permit ABC to accept these prints?


Yes, subject to the conditions set forth below.


The sections of G.L. c. 268A relevant to the question you ask are §§ 3 and 23. Section 3(b) prohibits a state employee from soliciting or accepting anything of substantial value for himself for or because of any official act or act within his official responsibility performed or to be performed by him. Although the prints would constitute something of substantial value,[2] this section is not applicable to the facts you have presented because the prints would not be for your personal use.[3] The result obviously would be different if the prints were a gift to you personally and not a gift to ABC which would remain with ABC.

Section 23 of G.L. c. 268A provides:

No current officer or employee of a state, county or municipal agency shall:

     . . . (2) use or attempt to use his official position to secure unwarranted privileges or
     exemptions for himself or others;

     . . . (3) by his conduct give reasonable basis for the impression that any person can
     improperly influence or unduly enjoy his favor in the performance of his official duties,
     or that he is unduly affected by the kinship, rank, position or influence of any party
     or person.

Again, since the prints are not being given for your personal use but rather for use by ABC in its offices, the Commission does not find that acceptance of the prints constitutes use of official position to secure an unwarranted privilege. Finally, because the donor does not have any present business with ABC, ABC's acceptance of the prints would not give reasonable basis that you or ABC would be improperly influenced by the donation. In order to avoid creating such an impression should the developer have subsequent dealings with ABC, you should notify your appointing official, the Governor, of the gift and of the fact that it is a gift to ABC and not to you personally.

End Of Decision

[1] [identifying footnote omitted].

[2] See Commonwealth v. Famigletti, 4 Mass. App. 584 (1976) (an item worth $50 constitutes substantial value under this statute).

[3] See EC-COI-83-110 (This citation refers to a previous Commission advisory opinion including the year it was issued and its identifying number, This and all other advisory opinions, with identifying information deleted, are available for public inspection at the Commission office).

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