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Annual Gifts to Staff | Conflict of Interest Reminder

Annual Gifts to Staff | Conflict of Interest Reminder
Posted on 12/11/2020
Review of the 'Gifts to Staff' Law
 
As the holiday season approaches, we generally receive many inquiries regarding the policy on providing gifts to staff members.
 
You may or may know that there is a state law requiring all Massachusetts public employees to receive a copy of conflict of interest regulations and to receive mandatory training on this topic and most importantly follow the law. While it is unlikely that teachers receiving tokens of appreciation from students and their families was the impetus for the state government’s emphasis on conflict of interest legalities, it is important that our employees comply with their legal responsibilities. The purpose of the law and accompanying regulations is to avoid any perception that a public employee might display some type of favoritism due to the influence of a gift.
 
While parents often give gifts to our teachers and assistants at holiday time and/or the end of the year as an expression of gratitude for their hard work, I would appreciate if parents who choose to do so would adhere to the following guidelines in order to avoid putting our educators in an awkward position.
Massachusetts General Law Chapter 268A and State Ethics Commission rules prohibit all public employees from receiving personal gifts of “substantial value,” which according to the regulations is $50 or more. This includes meals, tickets, services rendered, holiday gifts, etc.
 
The Ethics Commission recently created an exemption to permit class gifts to teachers. A teacher may accept a gift, or several gifts during the school year, from public school students and/or their parents and guardians, with an aggregated value of up to $150, if the gift is identified only as being from the class, and the identity of the givers and the individual amounts given are not identified to the recipient. Gifts received pursuant to this exemption are not required to be disclosed.
 
The law and regulations apply to any single, personal gift to a public employee from an individual or group. An employee may accept multiple gifts from different parties as long as each individual gift complies with the regulations.
 
Contributions for educational supplies, the purchasing of books or curriculum materials for the classroom, or a donation to a PTO or organization such as the Natick Education Foundation in the educator’s name are not subject to the limit.
 
Natick's families traditionally have been generous to our educators, and all of us in the School Department appreciate all the time, effort, and financial support that our faculty and staff provide. We ask that you follow these guidelines. If you have questions about the law and regulations, please contact your principal.
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