Newsletter Q&A Review

Volume 13, Issue 1 Summer 2019

The Scenario: 
Danielle is the receptionist in a small office at the 72 Marietta Street location. A long time vendor stops by the office and asks her on a date. He also offers her vouchers for discounted and free services at a spa that his sister owns in the city. Danielle is flattered but before responding she decides to send an email to the Ethics Office asking what she is allowed to do.


Q: Which of the following is the response Danielle should expect? 

Answer 1:  She may go on the date but may not keep the tickets.

Incorrect. The Ethics Code does not regulate friendships or personal relationship. It, however, regulates relationships between officials or employees and prohibited sources. Specifically, the ethical standards prohibit officials and employees from having contractual, financial, or personal interests that conflict with the individual’s official duties or the city’s best interest or would create the appearance of a conflict or impropriety to the public that would impair the individual’s independence or objectivity in the performance of his or her official duties.

In this case, although there may not be an actual conflict of interest, Danielle going on a date with the vendor who provides services to her office, runs the risk of creating an appearance of conflict or impropriety to the public that Danielle may not be independent or objective in the performance of her job duties related to the vendor or his activities.


Answer 2:  She should not go on the date but may keep the tickets.

Incorrect. Ethics Code section 2-817 bans employees from receiving anything of value from a prohibited source and bans prohibited sources from giving anything of value to a city official or employee. In this case, Danielle is prohibited from accepting the vouchers because they are an item of value given to her by the vendor who provides services to the office she works in.


Answer 3:  
She should not go on the date or keep the tickets.

Correct. Danielle should not go on the date to avoid any appearance of conflict or impropriety issues and Code section 2-817 bans her from accepting the vouchers.


*Section 
2-802 of the Code of Ethics governs the Appearance of Impropriety standard.
*Section 2-817 of the Code of Ethics governs the Prohibition on Giving or Receiving Gratuities.

View Code of Ethics

 

Volume 12, Issue 1 Winter 2018

The Scenario: 
Eddie is a city employee. Alex works for a city contractor and routinely delivers office supplies to Eddie’s office. One day, Alex comes into the office and offers Eddie discounted tickets to the upcoming Atlanta United game at the Mercedes Benz stadium.


Q1: Can Eddie accept the tickets if he pays the discounted price for the tickets? 

Answer 1: No. The Ethics Code prohibits city officials and employees from accepting free or discounted tickets, to any entertainment or athletic event if the ticket is only offered due to the official or employees position with the City. There is an exception if the official or employee is performing an official duty at the event. 

To determine whether a ticket is offered because of the individual’s position, the code provision describes two presumptions. First, it is presumed that a ticket from a prohibited source is given due to an individual’s position with the city. Second, it is presumed that a ticket from an immediate family member or from a business for which the individual or an immediate family member works or serves as a board member is not given due to an individual’s position with the City.  

In this case, Eddie will not be allowed to purchase the discounted tickets from Alex. First, Alex is considered a prohibited source because he works for a contractor who regularly delivers to Eddie’s office. Second, Alex is not an immediate family member of Eddie. Since Alex is a prohibited source and not Eddie’s immediate family member it will be presumed that the ticket was offered to Eddie due to his position with the City which is prohibited by the Code. If Eddie wants the tickets he will have to pay fair market value for them.
 

Q2: Can Eddie accept the tickets if he donates them to a charity? 

Answer 2: No. Even if Eddie decides to donate the tickets to a charity, the Code would still prohibit Eddie from actually accepting the discounted tickets based upon the rule outlined in question one. The only way Eddie can receive the tickets is by paying the full fair market value.
 

Q3: Can Alex give the tickets to Eddie’s office instead of to him? 

Answer 3: No. The Ethics Code provides an exception to the ban on gratuities where gifts may be accepted on behalf of the City when: (a) a city agency receives and controls the gift; (b) it is used for official city business; (c) the agency has sole discretion to determine who uses the gift; (4) and the gift is publicly disclosed on a Gift to the City report. However, in order to qualify as a “Gift to the City” the gift must be offered to all the employees of the department or city and distributed fairly without favoritism. 

In this case, Alex could not donate the tickets to Eddie’s office because he is not offering an amount of tickets that can be fairly distributed to the employees of the office without any appearance of favoritism. If Alex were offering enough tickets to distribute department wide in an equitable manner, or at a discounted rate to all city employees, then the office could accept the tickets as a Gift to the City. 


Section 2-816 of the Code of Ethics governs Passes, Tickets and Gratuities. 
View Code of Ethics

 



Volume 11, Issue 1 Fall 2017



The Scenario:
 Lisa is a former city employee who retired in July of 2017. A city contractor, who Lisa worked with while she was with the City, asks her to come work for him on an ongoing city project. Lisa was heavily involved in the project for the City.

Q1: Can Lisa go work for the contractor a month later?

Answer: Yes, but with restrictions. Former city employees are not restricted under the Code of Ethics from accepting an employment opportunity with a city contractor during the first year of separation from the city so long as the work to be performed on behalf of the contractor would not raise a conflict of interest. Here, due to Lisa's heavy involvement on a city project involving the contractor, she has a conflict of interest due to her prior involvement on the city project and will be restricted by the Code of Ethics from appearing before any city agency on behalf of the contractor on matters related to that specific project. Lisa will also want to be careful to avoid any appearance of impropriety due to her recent employment with the City and prior work with the contractor. 

Q2: Can Lisa go work for the contractor 6 month later?

Answer: Yes, she can do so, but under the same restrictions on her involvement on that particular city project outlined in question one. She will still want to take steps to avoid any appearance of impropriety due to her former position and the perception that she has inside knowledge which could benefit the contractor at the City's expense.

Q3: Can Lisa go work for the contractor a year later on another project?

Answer: Yes, after her one year of separation from the City, Lisa will not be restricted from working on any city project on behalf of this or any other city contractor. 


Want to learn more about the City's post-employment rule? Click here
Section 2-810 of the Code of Ethics governs post-employment activity. View the Code of Ethics


Volume 10, Issue 1 Summer 2016



The Scenario:
My department has a standing meeting with a city vendor and the vendor usually comes to our office...

Q1: Can we accept the vendor's offer to provide sandwiches to our team during a working lunch?

Answer: No, your team cannot accept the vendor's offer because the vendor is prohibited source and acceptance of he lunch would be a violation of the ban on gratuities. Further, no exception applies here which would allow your team to accept the lunch. This is not a public event which is open to other persons besides your team members.  The lunch is specifically for your team.

Q2: Can I accept an invitation from the vendor to attend a breakfast briefing during a conference I'm attending?

Answer: Yes, you may accept the invitation as long as other attendees at the conference are attending the breakfast as well. Officials and employees may accept reasonable meals and refreshments furnished in connection with their appearance in an official capacity at a conference under the public event exception. To qualify as a public event, at least 20 persons must attend and the gathering must include persons other than city officials, employees, and the hosts.

Q3: Can my team and I attend a free screening of a new movie offered by the vendor after the vendor completes a technical demonstration to our team?

Answer: No, you may not attend the free screening and to do so would violated the ban on gratuities. The vendor is offering the free screening to a small group of employees, specifically, your team. The free screening does not qualify for any exception unless it was offered to the entire department as a Gift to the City.

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