In California, gifts to state officials, local officials, and public employees are restricted by law. Local elected officers, candidates for local elective office, and local officials specified in Government Code section 87200 may not accept gifts from any single source totaling more than $470 in a calendar year. The value limit is adjusted every odd year. Officials subject to this gift limitation are also required to report gifts over $50 to the California Fair Political Practices Commission (“FPPC”) on an annual basis using a Form 700.
However, there are exceptions to these gift limitations. Under specific circumstances, an agency’s distribution of tickets to entertainment, amusement, recreational, or similar events, does not result in a gift to the officials who attend. In order to qualify, an agency must adopt a written policy that identifies the public purpose served in distribution of such tickets. The policy must state the public purpose for which tickets may be distributed, a statement that distribution of the tickets will accomplish that purpose, a provision limiting transfer of tickets received by an official under the policy to members of that official’s immediate family, and the policy must be maintained as a public record, be posted on the agency’s website within 30 days’ of adoption, and the agency must send a link to the posting to the FPPC. Under Title 2 of the California Code of Regulations section 18944.1(c), examples of permissible public purposes include general employee morale, retention, and rewarding public service.
Within 45 days of distributing the tickets, Section 18944.1(f) requires the agency to report the distribution on FPPC Forms 801 and 802. On Form 802, the agency must specify the name of the public official receiving the pass, date and description of the event, number of tickets distributed, and the face value of each ticket distributed. Staff members need not be specified by name, but the number of tickets distributed to all employees must be disclosed. (See Section 18944.1(f)(3) [“the agency may report the name of the department or other unit of the agency and the number of tickets or passes provided to the department or other unit in lieu of reporting the name of the individual employee as otherwise required”].) To report the distribution of tickets by department or work classification, the agency can simply report the value of each ticket in Section 2 and total number of tickets distributed to the agency, department, or unit in Section 3.A in Form 802.
If the agency does not meet the requirements for the exception, the distribution of tickets results in a gift that must be reported on a reporting official’s Form 700. In such a situation, an agency need not fill out Form 802.
If you have any questions concerning this Legal Alert, please contact the following from our office, or the attorney with whom you normally consult.