Holiday Reminder – Acceptance of Gifts

December 9, 2011 | Bulletin, Ethics


To:              All CUNY Employees and Faculty

From:         Frederick P. Schaffer

Re:              Holiday Reminder – Acceptance of Gifts

Date:          December 9, 2011      

 Please be reminded that CUNY has established a zero tolerance policy regarding gifts of any value from prohibited sources. [1] Accordingly, as a CUNY employee you may not solicit or accept gifts, of any value, either directly or indirectly, from any prohibited source, regardless of whether the gift was intended to influence or reward you.

 For purposes of this memorandum prohibited sources include vendors, students, parents, and publishers.  Prohibited sources are persons and business entities with which CUNY or its constituent Colleges are doing business, and also those persons and business entities interested in doing business with CUNY, or its constituent Colleges.  Prohibited sources even include those persons and business entities who have a history of doing business with CUNY or any of its constituent Colleges in the recent past.

 Additionally, New York State Public Officers Law also prohibits gifts from CUNY subordinates to CUNY supervisors (this term includes managers, directors, deans, and all executive staff titles). Such gifts from subordinates violate § 74 (f) of the Public Officers Law on the basis that it may give an appearance of impropriety or give the impression that someone may improperly influence a decision-maker:

 An officer or employee of a state agency, member of the legislature or legislative employee should not by his conduct give reasonable basis for the impression that any person can improperly influence him or unduly enjoy his favor in the performance of his official duties, or that he is affected by the kinship, rank, position or influence of any party or person.

  New York State Law does not prohibit supervisors from giving modest gifts to their subordinates as tokens of their appreciation.

 CUNY Faculty

The CUNY policy against all gifts applies to All CUNY employees, including faculty.  For more information please see the “Ethics Bulletin: Gifts to Faculty” – 2009 memo available at the CUNY website under Ethics at: http://www.cuny.edu/about/administration/offices/la/ethics/gifts-to-faculty-9.14.09.pdf

 If you have any questions regarding CUNY’s and NYSCPI’s interpretation of the law, I encourage you to ask before you act.  Please contact your Campus Ethics Officer http://www.cuny.edu/about/administration/offices/la/ethics/ethics-officers.html.

 If you receive a gift, please send it back to the person/entity along with the sample letter (http://www.cuny.edu/about/administration/offices/la/ethics/nogifts.html)  and a copy of “A Private Sector Guide to the New York State Ethics Law” publication available on the New York State Commission on Public Integrity website as stated below.

 For additional ethics information, please visit the NYSCPI website at:  http://www.nyintegrity.org/education/lib.html.  Attached to this memo is NYSCPI’s specific gift information about what you can and cannot accept.

Please note that as of August 15, 2011, the NYSCPI ceased operations.  A new entity, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (“JCOPE”) will be established later this month.  Until such time as JCOPE is fully staffed and operational, the guidance from the NYSCPI will continue to control issues relating to gifts.  My office will update CUNY faculty and employees with information from JCOPE in the coming weeks and months.

Gifts[1]_Publication of the NYSCPI

[1] The New York State Commission on Public Integrity’s (NYSCPI) guidelines interpreting the Public Officers Law,  permits gifts of nominal value, which has been defined as ‘regular cup of coffee’.