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 Gifts - Acceptance and Solicitation

1997-19 Chief of Police

A Chief of Police may solicit donations for community policing events and bicycle helmets as both have a charitable purpose.

1997-24 State Employee

A State employee may accept a purely private and personal gift from a person regulated by his agency.  [non-precedential]

1997-25​ Public Servant

A Public Servant may not solicit donations for a related professional association’s conference.

1998-18 County Public Service District

A PSD member may accept a free trip to a vendor’s seminar related to wastewater treatment equipment because it would enhance his job skills.

1998-23​ A County Board of Education Superintendent

A County BOE Superintendent may not accept an honorarium from a vendor/publisher when it is given in exchange for work performed.

1999-14 Higher Education Coach

A Higher Education coach may accept a bonus from the school's booster organization.

1999-20 State Employee

A State Employee may not accept a free $40 ticket from a vendor to see a prominent journalist speak at a luncheon.  “Meals and beverages” exception does not apply.

1999-24 County Commissioners

County Commissioners and employees may not solicit donations for a vehicle for litter control.

1999-25 State Agency

A State Agency and employees may not solicit donations for a seminar training but may sell ads or fundraise.

1999-28 Director of a Regional Service Agency 

A Director of a Regional Service Agency (RESA) may not accept a free trip to a seminar in California from a software company due to no overriding public benefit.

1999-32 State Agency

A State Agency may not solicit donations for a statewide celebration of the state's birthday.

1999-37 State Agency

A State Agency that provides healthcare to poor children may solicit promotional materials.

2000-05 State Elected Official

A State Elected Official may send letters of support for “West Virginia Celebration 2000” to people who have previously expressed interest in the event, although it is a non-charitable event.

2000-06  State Agency

A State Agency may sell advertising space at a conference to vendors at graduating fees correlating with increased levels of display area.  

2000-26 City Council

A City Council may accept an offer from a privately-owned utility to pay for a special election that is required to sell the city’s water system.  

2000-29 Association of Public Employees Members

An Association of Public Employees Members may not solicit donations from vendors for a conference aimed at enhancing job performance as this is not a charitable purpose. 

2000-39 State Agency

A State Agency may hire an employee to solicit donations for renovating a museum and to perform some work for the museum foundation as this is a charitable purpose.

2001-14 State Licensing Agency

A State Licensing Agency may not use employees to seek financial support for a noncharitable project from vendors, regulated persons, licensees, or the general public.  May apply for grants.

2001-16 County Commission Members and Employees

County Commission Members and Employees may not travel to Japan to visit the headquarters of the county’s largest private employer.  Corporation is an interested person as it is financially interested in the Commission’s duties.  May not accept trips without an overriding public benefit.  [See also W. Va. Code R. § 158-7-3.]​

2001-19 State Agency

A State Agency may solicit discounts for products and services for its employee wellness program.

2020-31 State Employee
A State Employee may not solicit private and public financial support to pay for a personal trip to China.

2002-14 State employee

A State employee who estimates retirement benefits by performing only ministerial actions may accept a gift from a retiree she assisted.  The retiree was not an interested person.

2003-05Public Employees 

Public employees may use the prestige of office to fundraise for a charitable purpose on behalf of their professional association.  Lobbying for public interest laws, and training to enhance professional competence, are charitable purposes.  Social events at the trainings and the salaries for the association's personnel are not charitable.  ​

2003-13State Employee 

A state employee may not solicit donations for a non-profit that promotes family planning, finding that this is not a charitable purpose for purposes of the solicitation restrictions in the Ethics Act.  

2004-09University Employees

University employees may accept a 10% YMCA discount as part of its wellness program to reduce the University's overall healthcare delivery costs.  The coordinator may accept a free membership if he volunteers in his free time.  Alternatively, he may serve as coordinator on employer's time. 

2004-24State Agency 

A State Agency may sell advertising in its newsletters to defray costs of newsletter.​

2004-28Board of Education Member 

A Board of Education member or employee may accept an all expense paid visit to a potential vendor's trade show in Germany to learn about its state-of-the-art printing process that is not available in the US.  Trip would increase the member's job-related skills or knowledge resulting in an overriding public benefit.  (non precedential)  

2005-02 County Board of Health
May solicit donations for public health programs
Establishes guidelines for non-coercive solicitation

County Commissioner
Proceeds from calendar sales featuring county officers may only be used for charitable purposes

2006-07 State Employee
Hotel stay “door prize” won at conference hosted by State vendor may not be accepted

2007-01 Association of Hunter Education Instructors
May solicit donations to support hunter safety education program and program for hunters with disabilities
Law enforcement personnel may not solicit for charity while on duty and in uniform [NOTE: Overrules AO 2004-07]
Prohibits issuance of window decals or bumper stickers to donors

2008-06 City Manager
 May not accept free golf from vendor, consultant or other interested person in conjunction with annual association conference of public employees
 Gift limitation applies even if funds from event go to charitable cause
 Authorizes "buy down" which reduces gift to $25 limit

2009-09 State Employee
It would violate the Ethics Act for certain State Agency employees to accept a lower lodging rate from a resort which the State Agency regulates.

2010-01 Elected member of the Board of Public Works
May solicit donations to underwrite the costs of a national conference and use the funds for meals and breaks, and certain social events, excluding golf.
May acknowledge sponsors, but may not attribute an event to a single sponsor; may not indicate amount any sponsor donates.
Use of funds Legislature appropriated to pay for attendees' meals does not constitute use of office for private gain.
Opinion limited to Elected Members of the Legislature of Elected Members of the Board of Public Works who are soliciting for national or regional conferences in accordance with W. Va. Code §§ 6B-2-5(c)(6) and 6B-2-5(c)(7).

2010-02  Attorney for City
City may participate in a vendor's program to provide discount to city employees for personal cell phone use.

2010-05 Public Employees / Higher Ed
Agency's decision to allocate more than $25 to recognize one or more employees, in lieu of expending up to $25 per employee per fiscal year, does not violate the Ethics Act so long as the expenditure on any one employee does not exceed $100, and the total amount expended for this purpose during the fiscal year does not exceed the sum total of $25 per employee. 

2010-11  State Legislator
May not accept two free airline tickets won in a random drawing at a public reception hosted by a State Agency for which the Legislature provides funds.
Prohibition against use of office for private gain applies to expenditures by public entities.

2010-19 - Elected Public Official
May not use public funds to purchase funeral flowers or other expressions of sympathy, including monetary donations.
May not solicit subordinate employees for a contribution towards the purchase of flowers or payment into an established office fund.
May take up a voluntary donation among co-workers, under certain conditions.

2010-23 County Board of Education
May not use public resources, including personnel, to promote the passage of an excess levy wherein school personnel are the primary beneficiaries.
County Superintendent, as the appointed voice of the County BOE, may advocate for passage of any excess levy.
County Superintendent’s advocacy for passage of an excess levy constitutes the performance of usual and customary duties associated with the position permitted by the Ethics Act

2011-11 State Agency

May accept funds for its Recreation Department, pursuant to its enabling legislation.
May solicit funds for its Recreation Department, under certain conditions: solicitation must benefit residents, not public servants; may not endorse a donor business; must comply with Legislative Rule if soliciting vendors; may not solicit a subordinate or Agency client; and may not use Agency clients to solicit.

2011-13  State Agency

Public funds may not be spent to pay for health club or gym fees for public servants when the hotel does not provide free exercise facilities to lodgers.
Public servants who receive an expense-paid trip to participate in a conference may not accept payment or reimbursement for health club or gym fees, when the hotel does not provide free exercise facilities to lodgers, and the total value of the fees exceeds $25. 
Public servants who participate in a conference or event as a panelist or speaker may not accept payment or reimbursement for health club or gym fees when the hotel does not provide free exercise facilities to lodgers.

2012-06 Elected Member of the Board of Public Works  
 •Public official may not endorse business or product of the sponsor of an international government forum that is paying travel expenses related to forum.
• Must notify forum participants that the West Virginia Ethics Act prohibits him from endorsing a particular product and that presentation relating to fraud control should not be construed as endorsement of the sponsor’s business or product.
• Appearance at international government forum paid for by business which has financial relationship with State provides benefit to West Virginia by allowing State to be recognized for achievements in fraud control and allowing first-hand observation of Australian state governments’ approach to financial management and procurement. 
• Must decline invitation to participate in proposed meetings with senior level government officials because these meetings do not provide an overriding benefit to the State of West Virginia.

2012-08 Municipal Police Department
 •Ethics Act prohibits the solicitation of donations to purchase a police canine and gun racks for police cars.
• Ethics Act permits Department to accept the unsolicited contribution of funds to purchase a police canine and gun racks for police cars.

2012-20 Public University  
 •May use public funds to purchase prizes or incentives, including gift cards, for wellness related competitions or promotions when prize recipients include University employees. • $25.00 gift limit not applicable because wellness program administrators are not interested parties to recipients.
May use reasonable amount of public funds for wellness-related incentives so long as there is a rational basis for such expenditure.

2012-43 Local Health Department
• May serve as pass-through for grant from private charitable foundation for benefit of two private entities that focus on health when Department derives no financial benefit in serving as pass-through and no employee or member of Department or business with which he or she is associated is party to or has an interest in profits or benefits of grant agreement or any other related contract.
• Serving as pass-through constitutes performance of usual and customary duties associated with office.

2012-49 County Farmland Protection Board
• May solicit because enabling legislation express authorizes. Limitations apply.
• May not solicit donations—orally or in writing—from anyone whose application for participation in any of its programs is pending at time of solicitation.
• May send written solicitation to public at large, even if targeted group may encompass previous or potential program participants, but may not direct such written solicitation solely to previous or potential program participants.
• May not orally solicit donations from: vendor with which it has a contract: one which is bidding on a contract; or one that is in process of soliciting business from Board.
• May send written solicitation to public or business community at large, even if targeted group may encompass vendor with which it has a contract, one which is bidding on a contract, or one that is in process of soliciting business from Board, but may not direct such written solicitation solely thereto.
• Shall not endorse a particular product, company or business in soliciting businesses and companies.
• The Ethics Act sets minimum standard of conduct. When Legislature or agency imposes stricter standard, must comply therewith.

2013-16 Solid Waste Authority
 A solid waste authority may accept funds from companies it regulates, for an event with public purpose and significant public benefit, where solicitation was directed to the general public for this event.
 However, the solid waste authority may not accept funds from a company who is currently negotiating a long term land lease and potential private/public partnership with the authority.

2013-40 Appointed Member of a Statewide Task Force
A Statewide Task force is authorized to solicit funds from business community and foundations on two grounds:
1. The overriding purpose of the solicitation does indeed serve a public purpose and the solicitation provides significant public benefit to education of children of West Virginia.
2. An Executive Order expressly authorizes the Statewide Task Force to engage in fundraising.
Limitations apply:
The Statewide Task Force shall not endorse any particular product, business, or company. If the Statewide Task Force solicits from vendors or entities subject to regulation by the Board of Education (or previous or potential participants in its programs) it must conform to the conditions set forth in Legislative Rule (See 158 CSR § 7.7) and Advisory Opinion 2012-49.
Member of this Statewide Task Force may not seek solicitations from which he/she may personally benefit, may never coerce from any source, and supervisors shall not solicit subordinates for contributions.

2013-46 Municipal Officials and Employees
Neither a municipality, nor its elected officials, or its employees may solicit donations of gift certificates from local restaurants to present as gifts to private citizen volunteers. No overriding public purpose was sufficient to overcome the prohibition against solicitation of the public. Active solicitation of local businesses would violate W.Va. Code § 6B-2-5(c).

2013-49 Municipal Police Department 

 The municipal Police Department may seek or accept funds from a private foundation established by a local businessperson for the sole purpose of supporting the Police Department.
 The police did not solicit, rather, a private foundation permissibly solicited police to apply for an award of funds. There is no prohibition against a police department accepting an unsolicited gift, if it is for public benefit or furtherance of operation of the office. The applicable rules for grants must be followed, and funds can only be expended for authorized purposes.

2014-01 County Economic Development Authority
 May solicit and spend funds to underwrite its “County Day at the Legislature”, including expenditures for lunch, transportation, and costs associated with a reception; including rental fees, and for advertising, printing, and office supplies, because its enabling legislation authorizes such solicitation.
 The Ethics Act generally prohibits a public official or employee from soliciting donations unless the solicitation is for a charitable purpose with no resulting direct pecuniary benefit conferred upon the official or employee, or their immediate family, W.Va. Code § 6B-2-5(c). Soliciting to subordinate public employees is strictly prohibited.
 After funds are solicited and received, they become public funds. These funds may only be expended for an authorized purpose, may not be spent for private gain, and must be spent using fiscal responsibility.

2014-03 County Hospital
Does not violate the Ethics Act by soliciting donations of cash or products from community businesses, individuals, and other organizations for hospital project to further its mission to protect the health and safety of the public citizens. Donations received become public funds which can only be spent for an authorized purpose.
Funding for a County Hospital project which supports its mission to enable physicians to offer their best medical care to patients who are unable to pay for medical services is indeed a charitable purpose for which public servants may be permitted to solicit funds. Soliciting to subordinate public employees is strictly prohibited.

2014-07 Municipality, members of governing body
 May not solicit constituents for donations of cash to purchase food for bereaved citizens. This solicitation does not rise to the level of significant public benefit sufficient to overcome the prohibition against it.
 W.Va. Code § 6b-2-5(c) states that a public official or employee may not solicit any gift unless the solicitation is for a charitable purpose with no resulting direct pecuniary benefit conferred upon the official, employee, or their immediate family. Municipalities do not fall under the exception for those entities authorized to solicit in their enabling legislation. (See W.Va. Code § 8-12-1)

2014-16 City Hospital
May permit employees to raise funds for coworkers experiencing financial hardship as this activity serves a charitable purpose, with limitations. These charitable funds may not be deposited into the City Hospital’s account. Fundraising activities based on an exchange of value are not gift solicitations and are permissible. City Hospital may permit employees to sell commercial products with limitations. Employees may also sell items for fundraising with limitations. In both instances, there may be no coercion, no solicitation of subordinates, no more than de minimis time and resources used for these activities, and announcements must be posted in areas accessible only to employees, not the general public.

2014-21 State Official
It is permissible for the Requester’s office to award a $100 prize through the use of a drawing of persons who have reported phishing e-mails. The drawing must be random and the Requester’s office must ensure that the drawing is conducted fairly. No employee at the Requester’s office may be eligible to receive the prize. The Requester’s office also must comply with all other relevant state laws, regulations and statutes which may apply.

2015-18 State Employee
A state employee may accept a $2,000 award, a plaque and travel reimbursements.” Prohibition against receiving private compensation for performing public job is inapplicable.

2015-21 State Agency
A State Agency may contract with a vendor to provide flat screen monitors which will broadcast public service announcements and paid advertising in its regional office lobbies if: (1) the agency selects the vendor in accordance with applicable purchasing laws; (2) the advertisements do not include political advertisements or feature persons or the names of persons who are candidates for public office; (3) the agency includes a disclaimer to ensure that the advertising does not constitute a prohibited endorsement, and (4) public service announcements from other agencies may not contain the name or likeness of a public official.  The sale of advertising under these circumstances does not constitute the prohibited solicitation of a gift.

2015-22 Cabinet Secretary
• May use staff to handle business and social aspects of a conference his agency is hosting as conference provides an overriding public benefit. 
• May not solicit donations to fund the conference because it does not constitute a “charitable purpose” under the Ethics Act.

2016-16 State Agency
A State Agency may produce and sell calendars because the calendars fall within the usual and customary duties of the State Agency to provide information and education to the public.  The State Agency may donate a de minimis amount of proceeds from the calendars to a memorial fund that aids in providing plaques and maintenance to the West Virginia Fallen Firefighter Memorial.  The agency may solicit donations on behalf of the memorial fund because providing plaques and maintenance to the West Virginia Fallen Firefighter Memorial constitutes a charitable purpose.  The agency may not solicit donations to underwrite its duty to provide public education and information.  This Opinion is based upon the specific facts of this request and may not be relied upon in other situations.

2017-07 Manager of a Legislative Office
Microsoft’s Home Use Program “HUP” is not a prohibited gift or private gain to employees due to the following circumstances: HUP is offered to all eligible employees; HUP is not offered to impair the impartiality of employees with the authority to determine whether to do business with Microsoft; HUP is made available to a large group of customers, and HUP adds no additional cost to the public agency.

2018-01 A County Commission
 The sale of sponsorships for park benches is not a gift solicitation but a fund-raising activity based upon an exchange of value either commercial or personal.  Potential sponsors may not be coerced into buying a sponsorship and may not receive unlawful or political favoritism in return for purchasing a sponsorship.

2019-01 State Agency  
A State Agency may solicit funds for the charitable purpose of fostering women’s health and wellness. The Agency may use solicited funds for operating expenses because the programs it administers in support of its mission are statutorily authorized and intended to help the poor and disadvantaged.  The Agency may not have a public official or employee solicit funds for his or her own salary as this action would result in a direct pecuniary benefit to a public official or public employee.

2019-11 Town
The Ethics Act’s solicitation provision, at W. Va. Code § 6B-2-5(c), does not prohibit a Town from soliciting another public agency (the neighboring County’s Sheriff’s Department) for retired police cruisers.

2019-19 County Commission
May not accept a donation of materials and labor from a local business to tint windows of its judicial annex if the donation was solicited by a county deputy.  Tinting windows of the judicial annex does not constitute a charitable purpose under the Ethics Act.

2019-26 A State Agency
A state agency may fund raise and solicit donations to assist potential foster families in meeting requirements for their homes to become approved foster homes and to fund rewards and incentives to students who display positive behaviors because fundraising is not prohibited by the Ethics Act and the solicited donations would be used for charitable purposes.

2020-10 City Manager
A city police officer may not accept an all-expense paid trip to an annual sales meeting of a private company when that company is doing business with the officer’s department. 

2020-11 Town Clerk
Town officials and employees may solicit donations from individuals and businesses for the charitable purpose of constructing a veterans memorial.

2021-02 Mayor
May appear in a video using his name and public title to promote and solicit donations for a local nonprofit drug and alcohol recovery center as it provides a charitable purpose. 

2021-03 Lobbyist
The $25 gift limit does not apply to charitable contributions made by an organization to a nonprofit to recognize a legislator.  The organization’s lobbyist must report the expenditure. 

2021-09​ Chief of Police
The City’s Police Officers may not keep gift cards, valued over $25, given to them by a citizen as an appreciation gift for their service.  The Police Department may keep the gift cards if they are used for a public purpose. 

2021-17 A City
City employees, including part-time and seasonal employees, were prohibited from accepting tips from members of the public under W. Va. Code § 6B-2-5(c)(prohibited gifts), (m), and (h)(6) (prohibited extra compensation) because members of the public were doing business with the city and the employees were being fully compensated by the City.