September 14, 1998
Jeanette A. Michael, Chief of Staff
Executive Office of the Mayor
Government of the District of Columbia
441-4th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Re: Clarification of Interpretative Opinion #98-03
Dear Ms. Michael:
This letter serves to clarify issues arising from the Interpretative Opinion referenced above concerning a tribute planned to honor the Mayor for his many years of public service. Your further inquiry concerns whether a portion of the $100 ticket to the event may include a contribution toward a gift to be presented to the Mayor. In addition, you seek clarification concerning the disclosure requirements by the Mayor as associated with the purchase of the $100 ticket.
As previously advised, §§ 1803.2 and 1803.4 of the DC Personnel Regulations, Chapter 18, “Employee Conduct”, generally prohibit District Government employees from soliciting or receiving gifts from a person transacting business with the District Government, or from soliciting contributions from other employees for a gift to an official supervisor. Notwithstanding, §§ 1803.3 and 1803.4 of the Personnel Regulations expressly except from this prohibited conduct, the “presentation or acceptance of a voluntary gift of nominal value or of a cash donation in a nominal amount when given on a special occasion such as marriage, illness, or retirement.” The exception clearly would permit gifts of nominal value, including cash donations, to be given on a special occasion, such as your Tribute.
First, it is presumed that the $100 ticket to the event is the vehicle by which the costs associated with the event will be defrayed. As such, where a portion of the $100 ticket is earmarked for a contribution toward a gift to the Mayor, such amount would not violate the Employee Conduct Regulations. Gifts valued at less than $100 are considered to be of nominal value when presented on a special occasion, and are the exception to the gift prohibitions under the Employee Standards of Conduct. See 18 D.P.M. §1803.3(e).
Second, DC Code § 1-1462(B)(5) requires the disclosure of gifts received by public officials in an aggregate value of $100 in a calendar year from any business transacting business with the District of Columbia government, including its agencies, departments, etc. With respect to tickets purchased at a cost of $100, if the portion of the ticket attributable to the gift is less than $100, disclosure is not required.
Lastly, the planners should exercise best efforts to account for the purchase of tickets from employees and known entities transacting business with the District. Where an employee or business entity transacting business with the District purchases more than one ticket, you must ensure the gift is permissible as an exception under the Standards of Conduct. This requires, at a minimum, that each ticket purchased be traceable to the person financially responsible for the cost of the ticket, including the gift portion. Otherwise, the gift portion of multiple ticket purchases, when aggregated, may not qualify as a gift of nominal value under the exception to the Standards of Conduct.