Summary of the Ethics In Public Service Act - Gift Rules

(Summary of RCW 42.52.140 and 42.52.150)

General Rule

State employees can not accept any thing of value as a gift, gratuity or favor from a person if it could be reasonably expected that the gift, gratuity or favor would influence the vote, judgment or action of the employee.  State employees can not accept gifts with an aggregate value in excess of $50 from a single source in a calendar year except for those on the “Gifts Over $50” list.

A. Gift Definition & What Is Not Considered A Gift

"Gift" means anything of economic value for which no consideration is given.  A "gift" does not include items on the following list, therefore you can accept these items without consideration of the dollar amount, (except for Section 4 employees who cannot accept items with an asterisk (*)):

  • (a)   Items from family members or friends where it is clear beyond a reasonable doubt that the gift was not made as part of any design to gain or maintain influence in the agency of which the recipient is an officer or employee;
  • (b)   Items related to the outside business of the recipient that are customary and not related to the recipient's performance of official duties;
  • (c)   Items exchanged among officials and employees or a social event hosted or sponsored by a state officer or state employee for coworkers;
  • (d)   Payments by a governmental or nongovernmental entity of reasonable expenses incurred in connection with a speech, presentation, appearance, or trade mission made in an official capacity. As used in this subsection, "reasonable expenses" are limited to travel, lodging, and subsistence expenses incurred the day before through the day after the event; (*)
  • (e)   Items a state officer or state employee is authorized by law to accept;
  • (f)   Payment of enrollment and course fees and reasonable travel expenses attributable to attending seminars and educational programs sponsored by a bona fide governmental or nonprofit professional, educational, trade, or charitable association or institution. As used in this subsection, "reasonable expenses" are limited to travel, lodging, and subsistence expenses incurred the day before through the day after the event; (*)
  • (g)   Items returned by the recipient to the donor within thirty days of receipt or donated to a charitable organization within thirty days of receipt;
  • (h)   Campaign contributions reported under chapter 42.17 RCW;
  • (i)   Discounts available to an individual as a member of an employee group, occupation, or similar broad-based group; and
  • (j)   Awards, prizes, scholarships, or other items provided in recognition of academic or scientific achievement.

B. Gifts Over $50

Unless you are a Section 4 employee, the following items are presumed not to influence under RCW 42.52.140, and may be accepted without regard to the $50 limit:

  • (a)   Unsolicited flowers, plants, and floral arrangements;
  • (b)   Unsolicited advertising or promotional items of nominal value, such as pens and note pads;
  • (c)   Unsolicited tokens or awards of appreciation in the form of a plaque, trophy, desk item, wall memento, or similar item;
  • (d)  Unsolicited items received by a state officer or state employee for the purpose of evaluation or review, if the officer or employee has no personal beneficial interest in the eventual use or acquisition of the item by the officer’s or employee’s agency;
  • (e)   Informational material, publications, or subscriptions related to the recipient’s performance of official duties;
  • (f)   Food and beverages consumed at hosted receptions where attendance is related to the state officer’s or state employee’s official duties;
  • (g)   Gifts, grants, conveyances, bequests, and devises of real or personal property, or both, in trust or otherwise accepted and solicited for deposit in the legislative international trade account created in RCW 43.15.050;
  • (h)   Gifts, grants, conveyances, bequests, and devises of real or personal property, or both, in trust or otherwise accepted and solicited for the purpose of promoting the expansion of tourism as provided for in RCW 43.330.090;
  • (i)   Gifts, grants, conveyances, bequests, and devises of real or personal property, or both, solicited on behalf of a national legislative association or host committee for the purpose of hosting an official conference under the circumstances specified in RCW 42.52.820. Anything solicited or accepted may only be received by the national association or host committee and may not be commingled with any funds or accounts that are the property of any person;
  • (j)   Admission to, and the cost of food and beverages consumed at, events sponsored by or in conjunction with a civic, charitable, governmental, or community organization; and
  • (k)  Unsolicited gifts from dignitaries from another state or a foreign country that are intended to be personal in nature.
  • (l)   Gifts in the form of food and beverage on infrequent occasions in the ordinary course of business where attendance by the officer or employee is related to the performance of official duties. Gifts in the form of food and beverage that exceed fifty dollars on a single occasion shall be reported as provided in chapter 42.17 RCW.

C. Section 4 Employees

When are you considered a “Section 4” employee?

If the employee’s duties include participating in contracting or purchasing matters, the Section 4 gift restrictions would apply to gifts from any current or potential future contractor or vendor.  Participating means being involved by making an approval, disapproval, decision, or recommendation or rendering advice or investigation.  Likewise, if a university employee’s duties include participating in regulating certain members of an industry, the Section 4 gift restrictions apply to gifts from any entity potentially subject to being regulated, not just those currently being regulated.

Note: At Western, if you are a Financial Manager or Budget Authority, you are a Section 4 employee with respect to those vendors you might contract with or purchase from as part of your duties at Western.

If you are a section 4 employee, you can only accept items on the following list and you do not need to consider the dollar value of the gift):

  • (a)   Unsolicited advertising or promotional items of nominal value, such as pens and note pads;
  • (b)   Unsolicited tokens or awards of appreciation in the form of a plaque, trophy, desk item, wall memento, or similar item;
  • (c)   Unsolicited items received by a state officer or state employee for the purpose of evaluation or review, if the officer or employee has no personal beneficial interest in the eventual use or acquisition of the item by the officer’s or employee’s agency;
  • (d)   Informational material, publications, or subscriptions related to the recipient’s performance of official duties;
  • (e)   Food and beverages consumed at hosted receptions where attendance is related to the state officer’s or state employee’s official duties;
  • (f)   Admission to, and the cost of food and beverages consumed at, events sponsored by or in conjunction with a civic, charitable, governmental, or community organization; and
  • (g)   Those items excluded from the definition of gift in RCW 42.52.010 except:
    • (i)   Payments by a governmental or nongovernmental entity of reasonable expenses incurred in connection with a speech, presentation, appearance, or trade mission made in an official capacity;
    • (ii)  Payments for seminars and educational programs sponsored by a bona fide governmental or nonprofit professional, educational, trade, or charitable association or institution; and
    • (iii) Flowers, plants, and floral arrangements.
  • Rev 2-21-2008

Page Updated 10.31.2013