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Ethics Tutorial - Colorado General Assembly

- Gift Ban - 9 of 25

Background

Article XXIX of the state constitution (commonly referred to as Amendment 41) establishes a "gift ban" that prohibits a member of the General Assembly (among other government officials and employees) from accepting a gift worth more than $59 from any one person in a given year.  There are 8 exceptions to the gift ban, including (provided for purposes of this scenario) an exception for the payment of reasonable expenses by a state or local government or by a nonprofit entity that receives less than 5% of its funding from for-profit entities for attendance at a convention, fact-finding mission or trip, or other meeting.  In order to qualify for the exception, the recipient must be scheduled to speak, make a presentation, participate on a panel, or represent the state or local government.  The Independent Ethics Commission (IEC) has stated that, even if the criteria of this exception are not met, it may still be permissible for a covered individual to accept travel expenses if it is a benefit to the government institution.  Considerations include whether the offer: 1) Is to a designee of an agency or government entity, rather than to a specific individual; 2) is to an individual by virtue of his or her specific position or area of responsibility or expertise (ex officio); 3) is for an event that is related to the public duties of the covered individual; 4) poses an existing or potential conflict of interest or appearance of impropriety; and 5) is for a trip the purpose of which is educational or to conduct government business and not primarily a networking opportunity. See, IEC PS 12-01.

Hypothetical

Travel expenses to attend a conference hosted by a nonprofit organization that receives more than 5% of its funding from for-profit sources

You are the chair of the House Agriculture, Livestock, and Natural Resources Committee.  The Speaker also appointed you to serve on the Joint Wildfire Interim Committee, which you also chair.  You have sponsored five bills over the past two legislative sessions addressing various wildfire issues and you consider yourself very knowledgeable on the topic of wildfires.  A representative of the western division of the Council of State Legislatures (CSL), a nonprofit organization of legislators, has invited you to attend the three-day Western States Wildfire Conference they are hosting in Salt Lake City, Utah next month.  Because of your expertise, experience, and knowledge related to wildfire issues and your position as the chair of the Joint Wildfire Interim Committee, CSL has asked you to moderate one of the sessions on environmental ethics related to the use of slurry to fight wildfires.  CSL has offered to pay for your airfare and hotel accommodations as well as a round of golf at the prestigious Eaglewood Golf Course (you are an avid golfer).  You are very interested in attending this conference in hopes that you will learn more from experts in the field of wildfires and other legislators from states facing wildfire issues similar to Colorado.  You have recently learned that CSL receives more than 5% of its funding from for-profit sources, and you are not sure if that will prevent you from being able to attend this educational program.

Question


May you attend the CSL wildfire conference?

Select Yes. Because CSL is a nonprofit entity and because you will be participating in the program by moderating one of the sessions, you may accept the gift of airfare and hotel accommodations.

Select No. Because there is a golf outing associated with the conference, you may not accept the invitation.

Select Yes. Even though CSL is a nonprofit organization that receives more than 5% of its funding from for-profit sources, due to your expertise in the area of wildfires and your position as chair of the House Agriculture, Livestock, and Natural Resources Committee and the Joint Wildfire Interim Committee, your attendance at this educational conference would actually benefit the General Assembly rather than just you as an individual.

Select No. The CSL may be a nonprofit entity, but because it receives more than 5% of its funding from for-profit sources, you may not accept the payment of the conference expenses.


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Last updated: 09 OCT 2015


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The information on this page is presented as an informational service only and should not be relied upon as an official record of action or legal position of the State of Colorado, the Colorado General Assembly, or the Office of Legislative Legal Services.