October 2, 2014

Retiring state workers concerned with ethics of gifts

State ethics officials say they’re hearing from an increasing number of state workers with concerns about the legality of accepting retirement gifts in their official capacity. The legislature approved an early retirement program touted by Governor Culver this year in an effort to help with a state budget crunch.

Charlie Smithson of the Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board says he’s getting questions as many workers prepare to leave later this month. “We’re seeing people who have worked in government for many years, who know a lot of people who want to give gifts, so this has been a heightened area of concern of late,” Smithson said.

Since the early 1990s, $3 has been the limit for most gifts accepted by state workers. But Smithson says the rules loosen up as state employees approach retirement. “The thought being…the closer you are to your retirement date, the less likely you could assist someone in getting something from state government,” Smithson said. “So, our enforcement policy has kind of been if you’re getting it close to your retirement date, we’re probably not going to view that as an illegal gift.” Smithson says anyone with questions should contact his office.