The April 1 deadline for public education agency officials and employees required to file a 2018 Statement of Economic Interests (Form 700) is fast approaching. Now is the time to brush up on your understanding of the financial interests to be reported on the schedules of Form 700, including gifts you may have received from persons, organizations, consultants, and businesses during 2018.
Remember that Schedule D must list gifts valued at $50 or more in the aggregate from a single disclosable source during the calendar year, and the total amount of gifts received from a single source during the calendar year may not exceed $470. A source is “disclosable” if it is within the disclosure categories listed for your position in your district’s conflict of interest code. Gifts from sources which do not fall within your position’s disclosure categories do not need to be reported on your Form 700.
The definition of “gift” is broad and can include anything of value provided to an official, for which consideration of equal or greater value is not provided. Gifts may include meals, attendance at holiday parties or conference receptions (excluding “drop-ins”), presents and similar items—even rebates and discounts on services or events that are not available to the general public.
If an official receives a gift, it is always best to check whether there are any exemptions that might apply; otherwise, the gift must be reported by the official. Even where a gift has been received, the official may have other options, such as returning the gift to the giver or donating it to charity, which eliminate the need to report the gift. The Fair Political Practices Commission issues publications to assist officials in understanding gifts and Form 700 reporting obligations. These publications are available on the FPPC website.
If you are interested in learning more about the requirements surrounding gifts, DWK attorneys from our Board Ethics, Transparency and Accountability (BETA) practice group will be presenting “Best Practices to Avoid Facilities Conflicts of Interest” on April 16, 2019 at 8:00 am and “Serving Public Education Without Violating Gifts and Ethics Laws” on April 17, 2019 at 8:00 am as part of the CASBO Annual Conference and School Business Expo in San Diego.
Remember: Form 700 requires the disclosure of a wide variety of financial interests beyond gifts. Those include investments, real property income, income (including that of a spouse), and travel payments. Each category is subject to specific rules and exemptions.
If you have questions about these or any other ethics laws, please contact a DWK attorney.