Gifts, Favors, and Standards of Business Conduct
Jamie Lewis Keith, Vice President and General Counsel
In a number of circumstances, Florida law and UF policies prohibit UF faculty, staff, officials and trustees (“UF personnel”) from asking for or accepting gifts, gratuities, and favors (“gift”), which include, for example, meals, food/candy, beverages, travel, entertainment, events, outings, items, loans, and favors/benefits/advantages.
- No UF personnel (or their spouses and minor children) may ask for or accept gifts of any kind or value if the gift is given or offered to influence UF official action, to garner UF’s goodwill, to obtain, maintain or expand a UF contract or business relationship, or in connection with a UF procurement.
If you influence or decide the business that a person (or the person’s employer or client) does or seeks with UF, or you perform the related work for UF, it is best to assume a gift is offered to you, your spouse or minor children for these prohibited reasons.
- Those UF personnel who are asked to file an annual financial disclosure with the Florida Commission on Ethics (“Reporting Individuals”) and their spouses and minor children may not accept gifts of any kind or value, regardless of how small, from Florida executive branch lobbyists or vendors (or their employers or clients) seeking to obtain or maintain UF contracts, business or procurements. (Reporting Individuals include trustees, the president, all vice presidents and deans, all lawyers who represent UF, and others with UF hiring authority or contracting or procurement authority of over $20K.)
- While gifts to UF are generally allowed, members of a UF procurement committee and the UF decision-maker(s) may not solicit donations to UF from responding vendors—unless the procurement documents expressly allow or require a gift as part of responders’ proposals.
- The College of Medicine has a stringent conflicts of interest and gift policy that relates to gifts from the pharmaceutical, medical device and biotechnology industries. See UF Reg. 5.0764.
Some gifts are allowed:
- All UF personnel may accept gifts from their relatives (except in rare situations where known to be given to influence official UF action).[i]
- Gifts from personal friends are also fine–as long as the friends are not also UF vendors, seeking to be UF vendors, executive branch lobbyists, or involved in a UF procurement.
- Any UF faculty or staff member who is not a Reporting Individual may accept a gift of up to $100 from a UF vendor or an executive branch lobbyist (or its employer or client) in a situation where the faculty or staff member doesn’t influence or decide the gift-giver’s business with UF. There is no dollar limit on permitted gifts in this situation if the UF faculty or staff member also is not a “Procurement Employee.” (A Procurement Employee has procurement responsibilities of over $10K in any fiscal year, e.g., on a PCard, overseeing procurements, making procurement decisions, influencing procurements, auditing procurements, etc.)
- Gifts given by UF or a UF Direct Support Organization in furtherance of their mission are allowed.
- Gifts to the University of Florida Foundation or to UF are allowed.
- If equal value is simultaneously exchanged, there is no gift.
For example, when a company that employs a lobbyist or is a UF vendor (or seeks to be) hosts or pays for an event or advisory group meeting and invites people to attend for free—but UF pays the full cost for a UF employee to attend (i.e., because attendance is worthwhile to UF)—there is no gift.
- When a gift is made to a Reporting Individual or Procurement Employee, the gift giver or receiver (or both) must file a report with the Florida Commission on Ethics. When UF Direct Support Organizations (e.g., the University Athletic Association) give reportable gifts, they provide a memorandum to the recipients to assist with reporting. Reports are not required for gifts from relatives.
To get more precise advice on actual situations, exceptions, and reporting obligations, please contact the UF General Counsel or Deputy General Counsel at 352-392-1358. More in-depth guidance is also available at www.generalcounsel.ufl.edu.
[i]Relative is defined by Section 112.312(21), Florida Statues as “an individual who is related to a public officer or employee [UF Trustee or employee] as father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother, half sister, grandparent, great grandparent, grandchild, great grandchild, step grandparent, step great grandparent, step grandchild, step great grandchild, person who is engaged to be married to the public officer or employee or who otherwise holds himself or herself out as or is generally known as the person whom the public officer or employee intends to marry or with whom the public officer or employee intends to form a household, or any other natural person having the same legal residence as the public officer or employee.