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Office of the General Counsel
& Senior Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs


Notice To All CUNY Employees Of Their Obligations Under The State Ethics Law Regarding Honoraria And Travel Reimbursements, Prohibited Activities, And Prohibited Gifts
May 11, 2007


A copy of the State Ethics Law and Regulations are available upon request from the college's ethics officer (labor designee) or the State Ethics Commission (1-800-87 ETHICS), or online at www.dos.state.ny.us/ethc/ethics.html. Ask for a copy of the blue ethics booklet.


HONORARIA AND TRAVEL REIMBURSEMENTS

I. Annual Reports.

Annual reports of honoraria (all references to honoraria herein include travel reimbursements) for the April 1st to March 31st year (form attached) must be filed with the college president, or designee, who in turn must file a compilation with the State Ethics Commission by June 1st. Only those employees who actually receive honoraria must file the reports. The regulations on honoraria and travel reimbursements (See Sec. 930) apply to all college employees. Honoraria forms completed by college employees should be filed with the college's ethics officer (labor designee) no later than May 15, and then reviewed by the college president and filed directly with the State Ethics Commission by the college.

II. Prohibited Honoraria.

The Regulations of the State Ethics Commission prohibit the receipt of honoraria (including travel reimbursements) from individuals, companies, organizations, unions, vendors and contractors which negotiate with (e.g. unions), do business with, or are interested in doing business with the University (or a college). The regulations, for example, prohibit vendor paid travel to view demonstrations of a vendor's products or services. These prohibitions also apply to college employees serving as board members and officers of related entities (e.g. auxiliary enterprise board, college association, foundation, etc.) as part of their official duties or within the scope of their employment with the college. Employee travel reimbursements for such purposes, however, may be made by the University when appropriate. Instructional staff employees (i.e., faculty) with appointments in academic departments, however, are exempt within their discipline from the regulations on honoraria.

III. Prior Approvals.

An employee may also seek prior approval for the receipt of an honorarium (including travel reimbursements) from the college president. If the request for prior approval is approved, the request and approval must then also be forwarded to the State Ethics Commission. If an employee has doubts about the propriety of accepting an honorarium, the employee should consult with the college's ethics officer and then consider whether to file a request for prior approval or not accept the honorarium.


PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES

All college employees are covered by the statutory prohibitions in the State Ethics Law. Particular attention should be paid to the prohibitions in the following sections of the State Ethics Law (Public Officers Law).

(a) Section 73(3)(b). Prohibition on the practice of law before the State Court of Claims.

(b) Section 73(4)(a). Prohibition on doing business with a State agency in excess of twenty five dollars ($25), except through a contract awarded after public notice and competitive bidding.

(c) Section 73(5). Prohibitions on acceptance of gifts in excess of seventy five dollars ($75), as discussed below. New Executive Order # 1 prohibits the acceptance of any gift more than nominal value.

(d) Section 73(7)(a). Prohibitions on appearances before State agencies.

(e) Section 73(8). Revolving Door Provision. Prohibition on appearing, practicing or receiving compensation for any such services before the employee's former State agency (CUNY) for two years after termination of employment; and lifetime prohibition on appearing or practicing before any State agency or receiving compensation for any such services with respect to any matter which the employee was personally involved with during his or her employment with the State agency (CUNY).


PROHIBITED GIFTS

The Public Officer's law prohibits solicitation, or acceptance by, employees of any gift valued at $75 or more under circumstances in which it could be inferred that the gift was intended to influence or reward the recipient for performing official duties.

A gift is anything of value given to an employee including money, services, loans, travel, meals, refreshments, entertainment, hospitality, or discounts. The value of a gift is determined by its retail cost of purchase. If a ticket is involved, the gift is the face value of the ticket even if a portion of the ticket price is donated to charity or you could otherwise get it at a discounted price. Where there are multiple gifts, including meals, the aggregate value of the individual gifts within a twelve month period will be considered to determine whether they total $75.

Employees are prohibited from accepting gifts over $75 from individuals, companies, organizations, unions, vendors and contractors that negotiate with, do business with, or are interested in doing business with the University or any of its colleges. These prohibitions also apply to college employees serving as board members and officers of related entities (e.g. auxiliary enterprise board, college association, foundation, etc.) as part of their official duties or within the scope of their employment with the college. Limited exceptions are provided for gifts received when it is clear that they derive from a personal or family relationship (i.e., the donor cannot charge or deduct the item as a business expense) and meals received by all participants in a group at an educational or professional function when related to the employee's responsibilities, but not travel and lodging. When a gift may not be given to an employee, the donor may not offer the gift to the employee's family or to an individual the employee designates.

Executive Order No. 1
Establishment of Ethical Conduct Guidelines

Application: This executive order applies to all officers and employees of all state agencies, departments, boards, commissions and other instrumentalities of the state, which include CUNY, who serve at the pleasure of the Governor or their appointing authority, which in the case of CUNY is the Board of Trustees. This creates an anomaly in that not all of CUNY's officers and employees serve at the pleasure of the Board. In order to ensure that all of CUNY's officers and employees will be subject to the same ethical standards, the Chancellor will recommend to the Board at its February meeting the adaptation of a policy applicable to all officers and employees that contains the same provisions as the executive order. This executive order also applies to members of all public authorities who are appointed by the Governor. Since CUNY is not a public authority, it does not apply to its Trustees. Accordingly, the Chancellor will also recommend to the Board at its February meeting the adaptation of an amendment to the Code of Conduct applicable to the Trustees that contains the same provisions as the executive order.

Prohibition Against the Receipt of Gifts: Individuals covered by this executive order are prohibited from accepting gifts of more than nominal value where the circumstances would permit the inference that (a) the gift was intended to influence the individual in the performance of official business; or (b) the gift constituted a tip, reward or sign of appreciation for any official act by the individual. This prohibition applies notwithstanding the provision of the Public Officers Law 73(5), which permits gifts of up to $75 in value under certain circumstances.
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