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Agenda Item FA 19-71

Submitted by the Faculty Affairs Committee

Gifts, Honoraria, and Other Things of Value Policy

01/09/20: Passed

01/09/20: Approved

University of North Florida Policy X.XXXXP - Gifts, Honoraria, and Other Things of Value

I. Objective and Purpose

All University of North Florida employees must comply with the letter and spirit of the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees, Chapter 112, part III, Florida Statutes. These legal and ethical requirements include, but are not limited to, restrictions on employees soliciting and accepting gifts, honoraria, and other things of value.

II. Definitions

Gift and Other Things of Value: Anything an employee receives for which they do not give equal or greater consideration within ninety (90) days. A gift or thing of value includes, but is not limited to food or beverage, membership dues, plants, flowers, floral arrangements, transportation and lodging, a preferential rate, the use of property, forgiveness of a debt, entrance fees, admission or registration fees or tickets to events, performance or facilities, services for which a fee is normally charged by the person providing the service, or any other similar service or thing having an attributable value not already provided for in this definition.

 

Honoraria: Payment of money or anything of value, directly or indirectly, to an employee or to any other person on his/her behalf as consideration for a speech or something written, other than a book, that has been or is intended to be published. The term does not include payments for services related to outside employment or ordinary payments for services related to the employee's public duties, nor does the term include payment of reasonable transportation, lodging, registration fee, or food and beverage expenses for the employee and spouse related to the honorarium event.

III. Gifts, Honoraria, and Other Things of Value

A University employee may not accept anything of value based on an understanding that the actions of the recipient will be influenced as a result. This embodies the idea of bribery and applies regardless of the value or source of the thing of value. [Authority: Section 112.313(2), Florida Statutes]

 

A University employ (or such employee's spouse or minor child) may not accept anything of value when they know, or with the exercise of reasonable care should know, that the thing of value was given with the intention to influence the actions of the University employee. [Authority: Section 112.313(4), Florida Statues]

A University employee may accept something of value that is given without any understanding or intention to influence the actions of the University employee if it has a value of $100 or less. In rare instances, things of value over $100 may be accepted by University employees, but the nature and circumstances of the matter should be discussed with the University Ethics Office prior to the acceptance of the thing of value. [Authority: Section 112.3148(4), Florida Statutes]

GIFTS, BENEFITS AND OTHER THINGS OF VALUE THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW

I. GIFTS, BENEFITS AND OTHER THINGS OF VALUE

Section 112.313(2), Florida Statutes, prohibits any UNF BOT member or UNF employee from accepting anything of value based on an understanding that the actions of the recipient will be influenced as a result. This embodies the idea of bribery and applies regardless of the value of source of the thing of value. The key issue here is whether there is an understanding of influence.

 

Section 112.3215(6)(a), Florida Statutes, prohibits any "agency official" or "employee" at UNF from receiving, directly or indirectly, anything of value from a lobbyist. An "agency official" or "employee" at UNF is anyone who is required to file a full or limited public disclosure of his or her financial interests (i.e. a Form 1 or Form 6). A "lobbyist" is someone who attempts to influence or obtain the goodwill of UNF. The definition of "lobbyist" is not limited to registered lobbyists and includes vendors, salesmen, third-party service providers and others trying to influence UNF.

II. UNATHORIZED COMPENSATION

Section 112.313(4), Florida Statutes, prohibits any UNF BOT or UNF employee (or their spouse or minor child) from accepting anything of value when they know, or with the exercise of reasonable care should know, that the thing of value was given to influence the UNF BOT member or UNF employee. The statute requires that a public officer have either actual or constructive knowledge that a provider of an items to the officer, the officer's spouse, or the officer's minor child was intended to influence the officer's vote or other official action by provision of the item.

III. GIFTS Definition of Gift

"Gift" is defined as anything having an attributable value of which equal or greater value is not given in return. This is a very broad definition that explicitly includes the use of real property (i.e. hotel room), transportation, food or beverage, and other personal services. As a result, the definition of gift includes any normal travel-related expenses.

Restriction on Gifts

Section 112.3148(4), Florida Statutes, controls the acceptance of gifts by certain people at UNF.

  • To whom does the gift restriction apply?
    • The restrictions apply to "reporting individuals" and "procurement employees." o The restriction does not apply to the agency itself. o A reporting individual is anyone at UNF who files a Form 1 or Form6.
    • A procurement employment is anyone at UNF who has participated in the preceding 12 months in any part of any purchases totaling more than $10,000 in any fiscal year.
     
  • What gifts are restricted?
    • Gifts from Relatives - can be accepted and are not reportable. o Gifts under $100 - can be accepted from anyone. o Gifts over $100 - fall into one of the following categories:
      • Prohibited Gifts -
        1. gifts from vendors doing business with UNF,
        2. gifts from a political committee, and
        3. gifts from a lobbyist who lobbies UNF. Unfortunately, lobbyist is defined so broadly that it includes salesman for potential vendors. As a result, any gift over $100 from any vendor or potential vendor should be considered a prohibited gift.
         
      • Reportable Gifts - gifts over $100 that are not from one of the three prohibited types of donors that are not from a relative are reported on Form 9 or Form 10.
       
     

Gifts $0-$100

Allowable from anyone as long as no understanding that the gift will affect the actions of the recipient.

Travel Expenses

A Florida Commission on Ethics opinion from March of 2013 (CEO 13-3) dealing with travel by a mayor repeats and clarifies the FCE's position that the individual (not the agency) has received a gift any time that individual travels at the expenses of someone other than his agency. This gift to the individual is then evaluated based on the amount and source of the gift as described above.

Conference Registration Fees

UNF often receives discounted registration fees at conferences. Based on the Florida Commission on Ethics opinion from January of 2007 (CEO 07-3), such discounts are viewed as gifts to the agency (and not a gift to the individual subject to Section 112.3148(4)) if (a) the agency designates who will attend the conference and (b) the agency pays the discounted registration fee along with the individual's other travel expenses.

Ways of Avoiding Characterization as a Gift to an Individual

  • Not to Individual. Gifts to an agency are not prohibited by Florida law. As a result, the FCE points out that as an alternative to the individual traveling at the expense of someone else, the agency can pay all of the individual's travel expenses and then seek and receive reimbursement from the donor. This would be considered of a gift to the agency and not a gift to the individual. The procedures for processing a reimbursement of this nature are available at following link on the Controller's website (i.e., Department Cash Handling Procedures and Department Credit Card Processing, https://www.unf.edu/controller/Policies.aspx. Additionally, Best Business Practices Workshops are available through the Center for Professional Development and Training which address issues of cash/check handling and reimbursements.

     

  • Not a Gift. There is no gift if the individual provides considerations of equal or greater value to the donor within 90 days. Therefore, if the individual reimburses the donors for the value of the gift within 90 days, the definition of gift is not met.

IV. HONORARIA

Definition of Honorarium

"Honorarium" is a payment of money or anything of value, directly or indirectly, to a "reporting individual" or a "procurement employee," or any person on his or her behalf, as consideration for an oral presentation or a writing. This does not include the payment or provision of actual and reasonable transportation, lodging, and food and beverage expenses related to an honorarium event, including any event or meeting registration fee; provided that the expenses are reported.

Restriction on Honoraria

Section 112.3149, Florida Statutes, prohibits the acceptance of honoraria by certain people by UNF.

  • To whom does the honoraria restriction apply?

    "Reporting individuals" and "procurement employees" are prohibited from knowingly accepting an honorarium from a "vendor," a "political committee," or a "lobbyist." The definition of these terms are identical to the definition for the gift statute discussed above, and, as a result, the prohibition on accepting honoraria is very broad.

     

  • What honoraria are restricted?

    Unlike gifts, there is no minimum on the prohibition on accepting honoraria. As a result, regardless of the amount, honoraria cannot be accepted by certain UNF individuals.

V. SOLICITATION

In addition to the statutory prohibitions on acceptance mentioned above, there are also statutory prohibitions on the solicitation of any bribes, gifts or honoraria, regardless of value or amount, by UNF individuals. While there are no such solicitation restrictions on unauthorized compensation or expenditures, such solicitations should likewise be avoided by UNF individuals.

VI. PENALTIES

In addition to any criminal or other civil penalty, Section 112.317, Florida Statutes, provides that violations of statutory standards of conduct or disclosure requirements may be punished by one or more of the following:

  • Dismissal from employment;
  • Suspension from employment for not more than 90 days without pay;
  • Demotion;
  • Reduction in his or her salary level;
  • Forfeiture of no more than one-third salary per month for no more than 12 months;
  • A civil penalty not to exceed $10,000;
  • Restitution of any pecuniary benefits received because of the violation committed;or
  • Public censure and reprimand.

GIFTS, BENEFITS, AND OTHER THINGS OF VALUE FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  1. Can/should we ask existing vendors for donations?

    As long as the donation flows to the University, then it is a permitted gift to the University. The donation cannot flow directly or indirectly to an individual and there cannot be any understanding that the donation will result in, or even influence, any action at the University.

     

    The bigger issue is the appearance that such a solicitation of a donation can have. As a result, care should be taken with regard to the appearance that a donation to the institution is required as part of the vendor relationship or that the donation will result in preferential treatment in the awarding of business from the University.

     

  2. What should employees be aware of and/or report from a vendor "gift"perspective? It is important to remember that a "gift" is only one possible characterization. Anytime something is received, all possible characterizations (and their related restrictions) should be considered, including bribes, unauthorized compensation, expenditures, honoraria, as well as gifts.
    1. Can employees accept travel to conference, board meetings, visits, etc. from existing vendors? From potential vendors?

       

      If this is a gift and the value of the travel is less than $100, it can be accepted. Otherwise, no, it cannot be accepted.

       

    2. Does it change if they are contractually obligated to provide travel arrangements? Probably, but the contract language would have to be very clear that the travel benefits are part of the contractual relationship (i.e. not a gift because equal or greater consideration is exchanged for the travel benefit) with the University and that the University controls who, when, where, and how the travel benefit is used. I reviewed as many of the EAB arrangements that I could find and I couldn't find an explicit term dealing with the provision of travel benefits as part of the contract. However, I'd be happy to look at specific language, if we can find it.

       

    3. Does it change if we pay and get reimbursed?

      If this is characterized as a gift and UNF pays for the travel expenses and then seeks reimbursement from vendor or potential vendor, then it would be considered a gift to the University and not prohibited by the ethics laws.

       

    4. Can we accept and report as gift?
      • If it characterized as a gift and it is $100 or less, it can be accepted from anyone.

         

      • If it characterized as a gift and it is over $100, then it cannot be accepted from vendors, lobbyists (very broad), or political committees.

         

      • If it is characterized as a gift and it is not from a vendor, lobbyist, or political committee, it can be accepted and reported on Form 9.

         

      • Gifts from relatives are not prohibited or reportable.
       
    5. Is there a de minimis threshold for a gift? Dinner with vendors at conferences? Vendor sponsored golf outing (often our vendors will "buy" a foursome in our athletic and alumni tournaments and let employees play)? Donated TPC tickets, box seats at Jumbo Shrimp games, other events?

       

      Yes, the de minimis amount for gifts is $100. Also, the de minimis amount only applies to gifts. It does not apply to other characterizations such as expenditures.

       

      Finally, the issue of perception can become important and should be considered carefully regardless of the amount.

       

    6. If reported as gift does that put employee in a taxable position?

      (and not a UNF issue).

       

    7. What should the process be? Who needs to approve?

      That's difficult to say. Let's discuss.

     

Self-Assessment Checklist for Best Business Practices

A "yes" answer suggests an appropriate level of control is in place. A "no" answer suggests there may be an internal control concern which requires correction or improvement. If you have any questions, concerns, or need assistance in completing the checklist call Julia Hann, Internal Audit Director at ext. 3953. You can also e-mail the Office of Internal Auditing at internal.audit@unf.edu. Not all categories may be applicable to your operations.

Table of Contents

Topic Page Number
General Control Environment 2
Budget Management 2
General Expenditures and Procurement 3
Cash Handling 4
Change and Petty Cash Funds 5
Public Safety, Emergency Planning and Business Continuity 5
Human Resources and Payroll 6
Information Technology Management 7
Miscellaneous Department Operations 7
Administration of Grants and Sponsored Projects 8
Safeguarding Assets 8

 

Travel authorizations are completed and approved before making travel arrangements.

 

Purchases using University funds are delivered directly to Central Receiving or the department when applicable. No purchases are delivered to personal addresses.

Cash Handling

YES NO

 

Employees handling cash, checks or credit cards take departmental cash handling training on a periodic basis. In addition, PCI training is taken when accepting credit cards.

 

In general, the department has two employees involved when handling cash and checks.

 

Any goods or services sold are reported to the Controllers' Office for determination of Unrelated Business Income Tax and sales tax purposes.

 

The department immediately prepares receipts when funds are collected. Receipts are pre-numbered and used in sequential order.

 

The department requires a one-up approval on voided receipts and discounts.

 

If checks are received by mail, a check log is used for tracking and oversight.

 

All funds collected are deposited with Student Financial Services Office, timely. (Generally by the next business day). If department uses a Remote Deposit Capture machine, checks and money orders are scanned immediately.

 

Receipts are regularly reconciled to ensure all receipts are accounted for.

 

An employee who does not have access to cash verifies daily totals from cash registers/POS terminals.

 

Collected funds are secured until deposited.

 

Duties of opening mail, collecting cash, preparing receipts, and account reconciliation are separated among several individuals (i.e., one individual is not responsible for two or more of these activities).

 

Individuals primarily responsible for handling cash or other financial transactions take at least five consecutive days of leave (i.e., vacation) annually.

 

Safe combinations and keys to cash boxes or files are restricted to a limited number of essential employees.

 

Safe combinations and locks to files are changed periodically and when there is turnover in personnel assigned with direct responsibility for the combinations or locks.

 

All UNF bank accounts are established only through the University Treasurer's Office.

 

Credit card transactions are processed in compliance with the Controller's Office Credit Card Procedures outlined here: http://www.unf.edu/controller/Policies.aspx

Change and Petty Cash Funds

YES NO

 

Permission to maintain a petty cash fund has been secured from the controller, and the controller is notified of any changes to the business practices that would justify a reduction or addition of the petty cash fund.

 

Change funds are balanced daily to ensure cash equals the fund balance.

Change funds are audited on a regular, unannounced basis by an individual other than the fund custodian.

 

Employees are prohibited from using change funds to make loans (IOU's), or to cash personal or payroll checks.

 

Over or short amounts should be booked at least quarterly through the Student Financial Services Office.

 

Change funds are kept locked in a secure location except when being used to accept funds or transact business (i.e., a locked drawer out of public view during business hours).

 

The change fund authorized balance is assessed at least annually for the appropriateness of the assigned fund (e.g., not too large or too small.)

Public Safety, Emergency Planning and Business Continuity

The department is familiar with the UNF Emergency Response Plan. https://www.unf.edu/emergency/Crisis_Management_for_Faculty_and_Staff.aspx

 

The department has identified, in conjunction with Human Resources, positions whose functions involve relationships with students, such as advisors to student groups, coaches, and residential advisors, also referred to as Campus Security Authorities (CSA) so that these individuals are trained on protocols for timely incident reporting.

 

Employees have been made aware of the location of emergency equipment, evacuation routes, assembly areas, and safe sheltering areas respective to their building, as well as the location where emergency procedures may be accessed.

 

The department has created pre and post emergency plans to address immediate issues such as fire, severe weather, medical or chemical spills and communicated to staff with consultation from Environmental Health and Safety.