Restrictions on Gifts

Gift Acceptance Quiz→

Sections 6-26 to 6-31 of the Ethics Law, contained in Article 8 of the City Code, prohibit public servants from soliciting and accepting certain gifts.

Watch and read below to learn more.

Take the Gift Acceptance Quiz for general guidance on whether you can accept an unsolicited gift.

Gift means the transfer of any thing or service of economic value without adequate consideration, i.e., without giving something of similar value in return, such as monetary payment.  Does NOT include political contributions regulated under State Election Law, Title 13 (campaign finance).

  • Significant Gift means a gift over $20.

General Prohibition 

A public servant may not solicit any gift (on their own or another’s behalf) or accept any gift (directly or indirectly) from any person or entity the public servant knows or should know:

  • Does/seeks to do business (regardless of amount) with the public servant’s agency or with another person who has a contract with/is negotiating a contract with the public servant’s agency;
  • Engages/seeks to engage in activity regulated/controlled by the public servant’s agency;
  • Is or was, within preceding 12 months, a lobbyist on matters within the public servant’s jurisdiction;
  • Has a financial interest that might be materially affected by the public servant’s official duties (different from the effect on the public at large); or
  • Is officially affiliated with any person described above, i.e., is an owner, partner, officer, director, trustee, employee, or agent of such a person.

The above persons/entities are known as controlled donors for purposes of the Ethics Law.


Exemptions for Specific Gifts

The following are exempt from the prohibition on gifts, but only if they are unsolicited and if they:

1) would not tend to impair the public servant’s impartiality/independent judgment; or

2) if gift is significant (over $20), the gift was not designed to or would not give the appearance of impairing the public servant’s impartiality/independent judgment.

  • Gifts comprising food or drink consumed in presence of donor (e.g., receptions)
  • Gifts of insignificant monetary value:
    • $20 or less for a single gift
    • $60 or less cumulatively for a series of gifts from same person during reporting period, i.e., calendar year.
  • As part of speaking engagement/participation on panel, if:
    • The expenses comprise travel, food, lodging, childcare/dependent care, or scheduled entertainment;
    • The expenses are actually associated with the engagement; and
    • If the expenses are expected to exceed $500, public servant has notified the Ethics Board.
  • Tickets/free admission given to elected official to attend charitable, cultural, or political event, if given by the person sponsoring the event as a courtesy to the Office.
  • Gifts from spouse, parent, child, or sibling.
  • Gifts/class of gifts exempted by Ethics Board (see below)

Ethics Board Approved

The Ethics Board may exempt specific gifts/classes of gifts if it makes a written finding that acceptance would not be detrimental to the impartial conduct of City business. Includes:

  • Certain pharmaceutical samples given to City health facilities;
  • Certain free admissions to events sponsored/conducted by educational institutions or on behalf of State government groups. (See Regulation 06.28.5);

The Ethics Board may also approve the solicitation of gifts for the exclusive benefit of a governmental or charitable function on a case-by-case basis and upon written request. (See Regulation 06.26.1). 

Key Terms

any person or organization engaged in any for-profit or not-for-profit business or other organized activity.

any one (1) or combination of sales, purchases, leases, or contracts that total $5,000 or more cumulatively and that are made to/from/with the City, OR to/from/with a person in connection with a City contract.

an individual’s spouse, parent, child, or sibling

ownership of a business entity (including convertible securities) that amounts to more than 3% of the entity, OR ownership of any interest that either resulted in the receipt of more than $1,000 in any one of the past three calendar years or that will result in the receipt of more than $1,000 in the current year or any future calendar year.

transfer of any thing or service of economic value without adequate consideration (i.e., without giving something of similar value in return, such as monetary payment). Does NOT include political contributions regulated under State Election Law, Title 13 (campaign finance).

legal or economic interest, regardless of encumbrance (e.g., a mortgage), that is owned or held wholly or partly, jointly or severally, or directly or indirectly.  Does not include certain financial interests, such as an insurance policy or pension.

a person who communicates with a public servant for the purpose of influencing legislative or executive action and who, in connection with that communication, expends $100 or more for gifts, incurs expenses of $500 or more, OR earns $2,500 or more in compensation.

any City elected official, head of Department, head of bureau/division, or any other individual with similar decision-making authority.  Also includes individuals with decision-making authority in quasi-judicial, regulatory, licensing, inspecting, or auditing functions.

any City official or employee.