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FYI 12: Travel

 

Over half of the opinions issued by the Independent Ethics Commission since 2008 have involved the question of when is it permissible for a public employee or official to accept a gift of travel.  Article XXIX section 3(3)(f) provides an explicit travel exception to the gift ban in certain circumstances:
 

(f) Reasonable expenses paid by a nonprofit organization or other state or local government for attendance at a convention, fact-finding mission or trip, or other meeting if the person is scheduled to deliver a speech, make a presentation, participate on a panel, or represent the state or local government, provided that the non-profit organization receives less than five percent (5%) of its funding from for-profit organizations or entities.
 

In the second opinion it issued, the Commission determined that if certain criteria were met, a gift of travel would not be considered an impermissible gift, but rather would be considered a "gift to the State".   The IEC has overruled Position Statement 08-02, and is relying now on a newly issued  Position Statement 12-01 (Travel). Please use this opinion as guidance.
 

Position Statement 12-01 sets out several factors which should be considered before accepting a gift of travel.  The primary focus is on whether the trip should be viewed as to a covered individual.  A gift of travel to a covered individual, unless it fits within the exception cited in Article XXIX, section 3(3)(f) is not permissible.

A gift is not considered a gift to a covered individual if it is offered ex officio, that is offered as a result of the person's position, if it is related to the recipient's official position, if it is an educational or training opportunity, not a networking opportunity,  there is a bona fide governmental purpose, and there is no conflict of interest or appearance of impropriety.  Please review Position Statement 12-01, for a discussion of these factors.   The totality of the circumstances must be evaluated.