Gifts, Gratuities and Favors — Standards of Business Conduct

Published: October 17th, 2016

Category: Memos

Jamie Lewis Keith, Vice President, General Counsel and University Secretary

As the holidays approach and vendors may send gift baskets or invitations to parties, this is a reminder about prohibitions on UF faculty, staff, officials and trustees asking for or accepting gifts, gratuities, and favors very broadly defined below (“gift”).

Prohibitions.  In many circumstances, Florida law and UF policies prohibit UF faculty, staff, officials and trustees (“UF personnel”) from asking for or accepting gifts, gratuities, favors or anything of value (“gift”).   A “gift” includes, for example, meals, food, candy, beverages, travel, entertainment, event tickets, parties,food/beverages at tail-gating, receptions, outings (including recreation, golf, etc.), items (including floral arrangements, any other item), loans, and favors/benefits/advantages. 

When in doubt—or as an easy rule that minimizes the need for complex analysis—UF personnel and their spouses and minor children should pay full cost/value (even for hospitality or something that is free to others) and not accept or partake in a gift from any individual (even a friend) or entity that is  (a) a UF vendor, (b)seeking to become a UF vendor, (c) an executive branch lobbyist, or (d) anyone seeking to influence/ garner good will for UF action, policy or procurement, or (e) is employed by, a client of, or represents one listed in (a), (b), (c) or (d).  Assume gifts from vendors, potential vendors, and lobbyists/principals of lobbyists are to garner good will.  See More Guidance on Gifts below for specific rules. 

Certain Permitted Gifts.   Gifts of any amount may be given to a UF employee or official by (a) a relative, or (b) a personal friend (who is not also a UF vendor, potential UF vendor, or lobbyist/principal of a lobbyist. ), or (c) UF or a UF Direct Support Organization for a public purpose.   (Non-DSO affiliates are not covered by this special permission.)

Only if you are not a “Reporting Individual” (one required to file a Form 1 annual financial disclosure with the Florida Commission on Ethics)and you are not accepting a gift in connection with a UF procurement or its contract and you have no involvement in a UF procurement or its contract—then:

(a) you may accept a gift of up to $100 from a UF vendor or lobbyist, or its employer or client, or its representatives; and

(b) you may accept a gift >$100 if you are also not a Procurement Employee.

A UF “Procurement Employee” is any personnel with procurement-related duties/role—or a

P-Card—involving >$10,000 in any fiscal year, including an authorizing, decision-making, advising/input, developing, assessing, auditing, or any other role in any procurement.

But, a gift, gratuity or favor is never permitted to influence/garner good will (or as a quid pro quo) for official action—and is never permitted to UF personnel in connection with a procurement or its contract.  These prohibitions apply even when the vendor or lobbyist or other gift-giver is also a personal friend or relative.  When in doubt, pay and do not accept or partake in a gift.

College of Medicine.

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 Regulation 5.0764.

See More Guidance on Gifts below.  Further advice is available from the UF General Counsel or Deputy General Counsel at 352-392-1358.  All applicable UF Regulations and laws govern (e.g., standards for research).  See http://www.generalcounsel.ufl.edu/ for additional guidance on gifts and doing business with UF.

 

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More Guidance on Gifts  (See above For Definition of “Gifts”)

  1. Some Key Standards Applying to All UF Personnel In All UF Matters.

No UF personnel (faculty, staff, officials, and trustees), and no spouse or minor child of UF personnel, may (directly or indirectly) solicit or accept any gift, gratuity or favor of any kind or value if there is an intent–or actual or potential effect–to influence the  UF personnel’s official actions or judgments. (See UF Reg. 1.011; s. 112.313 (2), (4), Florida Statutes.)

  • Even without intent to influence a particular decision, intent to create goodwill with someone who can act for UF or recommend UF action–is a kind of intent to influence under the law.

No one may knowingly, give or offer to UF personnel—and no UF personnel may knowingly solicit, accept, or agree to accept—any gain or advantage (for the UF personnel, or anyone in whose welfare s/he is interested), in order “to [wrongfully] influence” the UF personnel in a UF matter.  This applies when the giver believes (or the UF personnel represents) that the UF personnel has authority to act for UF or any of its units—even if that authority (in fact) is lacking.  See s. 838.014-016 Florida Statutes.

  • This is a bribe or unlawful compensation or reward for official behavior, and need not involve money or an item that has a monetary value.
  1. Purchasing Code of Conduct Applying to All UF Personnel

All UF personnel are prohibited to solicit, accept, or agree to accept—and any UF vendor/potential vendor is prohibited to offer to any UF personnel–any gratuities (including gifts or favors), of any value or type in connection with a procurement or contract.  See UF Reg. 3.020 (8). This rule applies when a procurement is anticipated, planned or underway—and in maintaining the ongoing business relationship with a vendor and its representatives.  This rule applies even to personal friends who are vendors.

Also, while a procurement is underway, anyone on the procurement committee and the decision-maker may not solicit donations to UF or any of its units from a responding vendor. (To avoid doubt, anyone who influences or participates in the procurement also should not solicit donations from involved vendors.)  The only exception is if the UF procurement document states that a gift to UF or a UF unit is required or permitted in proposals or negotiations.   This is to avoid a donor relationship from influencing a procurement decision.  Board of Governors Reg. 18.001(1)(g).

  1. Some Key Rules Applying To UF Personnel Who Are Required to File a Form 1 Financial Disclosure With The Florida Ethics Commission or Who Are “Procurement Employees”.

If you are a “Reporting Individual” (required to file a Form 1 annual financial disclosure with the Florida Commission on Ethics), you are prohibited to accept, directly or indirectly—and executive branch lobbyists (including but not limited to vendors and potential vendors and their paid representatives)1 and the employers and clients of lobbyists/vendors are prohibited to give you, directly or indirectly—any gifts, gratuities, or favorsof any amount or type. 2 See s. 112.3215(6), Florida Statutes. (This prohibition trumps other laws on the subject.) 

If you are a Reporting Individual or a “Procurement Employee” (UF personnel with procurement-related duties—or a P-Card—involving >$10,000 in any fiscal year, including an authorizing, decision-making, advising, developing, assessing, auditing, or any other role in such procurement), you are also prohibited to solicit a gift, gratuity or favor of any amount or type from current and potential lobbyists/vendors, their employers and clients.  See s. 112.3148(3), Florida Statutes.  (See the introduction page for limits applicable to unsolicited gifts to Procurement Employees who are not also Reporting Individuals.)

  • Assume that gifts, gratuities and favors are intended to at least create goodwill for UF business, if not to influence particular purchases or policy decisions.
  1. Certain Permitted Gifts—Reports on Gifts.

See the introduction page regarding permitted gifts.  A gift, gratuity or favor is never permitted to influence/garner good will (or as a quid pro quo) for official action—and is never permitted in connection with a procurement/contract.  When in doubt, pay and don’t accept or partake in a gift.

The gift-giver who is a UF vendor or a lobbyist/principal of a lobbyist must file a report quarterly with the Commission on Ethics about any gift of $25 to $100 given to a Procurement Employee or Form 1 Reporting Individual (other than a relative).  (But for the gift to be permitted, the recipient must not be a Form 1 Reporting Individual.)

Any Form 1 Reporting Individual–or anyone who is a Procurement Employee–must report quarterly to the Commission on Ethics about any gift received and believed to be over $100—unless provided by UF or a DSO, in which event the report is annual.   (Gifts to Reporting Individuals from UF vendors, potential vendors and lobbyists are not permitted.)  See UF Regulation 3.020(8); s. 112.3148 (6), (8), Florida Statutes.

Reports are not required for gifts from relatives.

See UF Regulation 3.020(8); s. 112.3148(2), (3), (4), (5) and s. 112.3215(6), Florida Statutes.3

Relative is defined in Section 112.312(21): “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.”

For excerpts from key statutes and regulations, see a copy of this memorandum with a final page that includes such excerpts at http://generalcounsel.ufl.edu/regulations-and-policies/

  1. If a vendor or potential vendor merely responds to a UF RFP or ITN, it is not lobbying.  But if the vendor/potential vendor proactively seeks business from UF, it is lobbying (unless the contract sought is <$20,000).  Assume registered executive branch lobbyists are lobbying.
  1. Also, limited exceptions may arguably apply in some circumstances where influence is clearly not sought.  For example, water and non-alcoholic beverages and inexpensive, minimal food consumed while working may be necessary to complete UF business and may not be offered to influence official action or garner goodwill.  This is distinguished from being taken out or provided a meal before or after a work session, or being provided expensive meals even while working.  Meals served to all members of a Board during meetings generally are permitted.  Consult the UF General Counsel or Deputy General Counsel.
  1. The interaction of these sections is complex so please consult the General Counsel or Deputy General Counsel for advice and do not accept or partake in any gift if there is any question about its propriety under UF policy or law.

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