Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
Dec. 6, 1996

Moderation the key in holiday giving and receiving

by Linda Charles
Tis the season of giving and receiving. And while it shouldn't have a great effect, the Iowa gift law does apply to Iowa State employees.

"The gift law prohibits all gift giving or receiving that is, or is perceived as, done to influence business or in some way curry favor," said Carol Bradley, director of government relations. "For the most part, that doesn't affect holiday gift exchanges among university employees."

ISU employees may give gifts to and receive them from their peers and supervisors. Employees also may pool their resources to give supervisors gifts. However, it is up to supervisors to determine whether gifts and the givers' intentions are moderate and therefore acceptable, she said.

"The gift law is intended to stop gift giving that intends to win favor, such as what might be implied when an employee gives a generous gift to a boss," she said.

ISU supervisors also may attend holiday gatherings at their employees' homes, especially if they contribute something to the event, such as bringing food or a hostess gift, Bradley said.

The gift law defines the ethical relationship between "restricted" donors and public officials and employees. Restricted donors include lobbyists, people who stand to benefit from university decisions or actions and vendors who do or want to do business with university offices.

Gifts of $3 or more may not be accepted from restricted donors. If a supplier gives you a gift valued at more, you should politely return it, citing the gift law, Bradley said. If the supplier won't take the gift back, you should give it to a local charity or another public office.

You may attend holiday parties and open houses held by suppliers, but keep in mind your refreshments should cost less than $3, she added.

"To avoid the appearance of impropriety, ISU employees may choose not to eat or drink at such events," Bradley said, "or they could remind their hosts of the gift law and leave some money to pay for what they eat and drink."

The gift law also applies in the case of potential suppliers, Bradley said. And it applies when the supplier is a friend. "The law only makes exceptions for close relatives," she said.

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