Don’t be a party to an ethical lapse


With the gift-giving season underway, the State Ethics Commission on Monday reminded state, county, and municipal employees that accepting certain gifts could violate state ethics laws, according to the State House News Service.

“In general, public employees may not accept gifts worth $50 or more that are given because of their public position or because of an official act,” the news service quoted the commission as saying.

There are exceptions. Even if a gift is worth less than $50, the commission said a public employee must file a disclosure if “accepting the gift would create the reasonable impression that he or she would unduly show favor to the giver,” the news service reported.

Public employees are allowed to accept gifts like fruit baskets, flowers, or other perishable items if they are accepted on behalf of an office or agency and shared with coworkers. Gifts of alcohol are generally prohibited, the commission said.

Parents and students can act together to give a public schoolteacher a gift worth $150 or less, so long as it is presented as being from the class and the identities of the contributors are not revealed to the teacher, according to the news service. Teachers may accept gifts of under $50 from individual students or families, but teachers must first confirm that the giving family did not also contribute to the class gift.

Public employees who have questions about state ethics laws and how they relate to gifts may contact the commission’s Legal Division at 617-371-9500 for free advice.