GIFT BAN ACT BASICS

November 12, 2010

By: Justino D. Petrarca and Jessica M. Bargnes

The ethical conduct of elected officials and governmental employees including school board members and district employees has come under increased scrutiny over the years.  As the date of the Illinois Association of School Board’s 2010 Joint Annual Conference approaches, Scariano, Himes and Petrarca, Chtd. would like to remind you about the prohibitions contained in the Illinois Gift Ban Act. The Act generally prohibits a board member or district employee from soliciting or accepting any “gift” - including food and drink - from any “prohibited source” as defined in the Act, or in violation of any State or federal law.  

1.          MANDATE

The Gift Ban Act generally prohibits public officials and/or employees from soliciting or accepting any gift from a "prohibited source."   The mandate covers Board members, employees (full and part time), and Board member or employee spouses and immediate family members  residing with the Board member or employee.  This prohibition  is very broad and applies unless the "gift" fits one of the exceptions noted in number 3 below.

2.          "PROHIBITED SOURCE"

A "prohibited source" is any person or entity which:

a.         Seeks official action from the Board, its members or employees;

b.         Does business or seeks to do business with the board, its members or employees;

c.         Conducts activities regulated by the Board, its members or employees;

d.          Has interests that may be substantially  affected  by the performance  of duties of the Board, its members or employees; or

e.         Has registered  or is required  to  be registered  with the  Secretary  of  State  as  a

"lobbyist."

3.          GIFT  BAN EXCEPTIONS

There are several exceptions to the Gift Ban Act.   Below we highlight only those most relevant to the upcoming IASB conference in Chicago.

The restrictions of the Act do not apply to:

a.         Opportunities,  benefits and services  available on the same conditions  as for the general public (i.e. theater tickets).

b.         Anything for which the Board, its members or employees pay market value.

c.         Educational materials and "missions" having a close connection to the recipient's office or employment; that predominantly benefit the public, not the recipient; and that are approved by the recipient entity's  local ethics officer in advance of the "mission" or receipt  of materials.    If advance  approval  is not practicable,  then approval must occur as soon thereafter as practicable, with a detailed explanation as to  why  advanced  approval  was  not  possible.    At the  IASB  conference,  be conscious of those gifts distributed in the vendor exhibition hall.

d.          Travel expenses having a close connection to the recipient's    office or employment,   and  which  predominantly benefit  the  public,  not  the  recipient.These  travel  expenses  must  be  in  a  manner  and  style  characteristic  with  the conduct of State business and are subject to the same prior approval requirements noted above.  Beware oflimousines!

e.               Food and refreshments  not exceeding $75 per person per calendar day.   In order to qualify for this exception the food must be either catered or consumed  on the premises from which the food was purchased or prepared.

f.           Any item(s)  from  any one prohibited  source  during  any calendar  day having  a cumulative  total  value  of less than  $100.   With this  exception,  a school  board member or district employee most likely may accept the souvenirs offered at the IASB Joint Annual Conference vendor exhibition hall!

With regard to the IASB Joint Annual Conference,  we caution that the greatest scrutiny will be focused  on thecost and location of hotel rooms, theoccupants  of those  rooms (relatives,  friends,  etc.),  transportation  expenses  to,  from,  and  during  the  conference, meals,   liquor  purchases,  tours,  tickets  to events  (plays,  concerts,   etc.),  and  other items/services of value that may not easily fit any of the noted exceptions.

If you have specific questions about the application of the Illinois Gift Ban Act, please do not hesitate to call Scariano, Himes and Petrarca.  We  look forward toseeing  you atthe Illinois Association of  School Board’s Joint Annual Conference!