Chapter 35 – Prohibition on Giving and Receiving Gifts
35.1 General Policy
The following outlines the "gift law," Chapter 68B of the Iowa Code, as it relates to University of Iowa employees. The outline is not a substitute for the law, but is intended to guide and put University employees on notice of their responsibilities under the law. The law prohibits public officials, public employees, candidates for public office, and members of their immediate families from soliciting or accepting gifts from a "restricted donor." A transaction is prohibited if all three of the following conditions exist:
- the recipient (donee) is a public employee, a public official or one's immediate family member (defined as spouse or dependent child);
- the recipient receives a "gift" as defined by the law; and
- the donor (person giving the gift) is a "restricted donor."
Under the law, the following definitions apply:
- "Public employee" means "state employee," so all University faculty and staff are included. "Public official" includes legislators, members of state boards with policy making powers, and "heads of the major subunits of departments or independent state agencies whose positions involve a substantial exercise of administrative discretion or the expenditure of public funds." The "public official" definition includes institutional officers (Presidents and Vice Presidents), members of the Board of Regents, and certain Board staff.
- A "gift " is anything of value which is received when something of equal value is not given in return. Exclusions include:
- contributions to candidates;
- informational material relevant to a public official or public employee's official functions;
- an inheritance;
- items received from organizations by dues-paying members if given to all members of the organization;
- items free of charge to the public;
- anything from a relative (to the fourth degree) unless the donor is acting as an agent;
- expenses for participating in a panel or a speaking engagement when the expenses relate to the days one has participation or presentation responsibilities;
- plaques or items of negligible value;
- non-monetary items worth $3.00 or less received in one calendar day;
- certain items and services solicited for state, national, or regional organization meetings;
- certain items or services given at events, business, or educational meetings sponsored by governmental organizations if the governmental organization is a member of the sponsoring organization (e.g., reports of the Department of Education distributed at a meeting sponsored by the Department of Education);
- funeral flowers and memorial donations;
- wedding, twenty-fifth and fiftieth anniversary gifts;
- payment of salary or expenses by an employer for attending requisite meetings of a board, commission, committee, council, or other subunit of an agency on which the employee serves and is not entitled to compensation or expenses from the state for attending;
- expenses when specific guidelines are met for representing an agency in a delegation whose sole purpose is to attract new business;
- gifts other than food, beverages, travel, and lodging from a foreign citizen given during a ceremonial presentation or as a custom; and
- registration costs for informational meetings that assist in the person's official functions. Food, beverage, lodging, and travel are not "registration costs." This does not include sessions for personal or professional licensing.
- "Restricted Donor" means any of the following:
- a party to, or a person seeking to be a party to, a sale, purchase, lease, or contract with a public agency in which the recipient is employed or is an office holder;
- someone, or an agent of someone, who will personally be directly and substantially affected financially by the performance of the recipient's official duty in a way greater than the public or a class of persons;
- someone, or an agent of someone, who is personally the subject of or a party to a pending matter before a regulatory agency over which the recipient has discretionary authority; or
- a lobbyist or a client of a lobbyist within matters subject to the recipient's jurisdiction. (See II-34 Lobbying Restrictions for the complete definitions of "lobbyist" and "client" under Iowa Code 68B.)
- "Immediate Family Member" means spouse or dependent child. In its administration of the gift law, the University includes domestic partners.
Honoraria, from a restricted donor, are banned unless for: 1) directly related expenses paid in return for participation in a panel or a speaking engagement (e.g., travel expenses to the engagement); 2) services rendered as part of one's private business, trade, or profession; or 3) when donated within thirty days to an educational or charitable organization or other public body. Note that faculty and staff should consult III-17.13, III-17.15, III-17.17, and II-18 as the University's policies on conflicts of interest may restrict faculty and staff from accepting payments.
A public employee, official, or a member of the public employee's immediate family who receives something of value from a restricted donor, and an exclusion does not apply, has received a "gift" and gifts are banned. A prohibited gift may be accepted if donated within thirty days to a public body, the Department of General Services, or an educational or charitable organization. Questions about Iowa Code 68B, its application, or provisions, should be addressed to the Office of the General Counsel, 120 Jessup Hall.
Civil and Criminal Penalties: Civil and criminal penalties may be imposed for violating Chapter 68B. The Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board administers Iowa Code 68B and processes civil complaints. It may impose a maximum civil penalty of $2,000 for each violation and/or recommend removal or suspension from office. A criminal conviction of a Chapter 68B violation is a serious misdemeanor for which a penalty of imprisonment for one year and a $1,000 fine may be imposed.
(See also II-34 Lobbying Restrictions Applicable to Public Employees and Officials; II-18 Conflicts of Commitment and Interest.)