April 1 is the deadline for those holding "designated positions" under their agency's Conflict of Interest Code (Code filers), as well as so-called "Section 87200 filers," to file the annual Statement of Economic Interests (Form 700). Section 87200 filers include mayors, city council members, city managers, city attorneys, city treasurers, members of planning commissions, members of the board of supervisors, district attorneys, county counsels, county treasurers, county chief administrative officers, other public officials who manage public investments, and candidates for any of these offices at any election. The Political Reform Act (Gov. Code, §§ 81000-91014) requires those public officials and employees to disclose on Form 700 certain investments, interests in businesses and real property, and sources of income, as well as certain gifts that were received in the previous 12-month period which exceed designated dollar amounts. School districts, cities, counties, and other public agencies are required to adopt a conflict of interest code which, at a minimum, includes the terms of Government Code section 87300, and the related regulations.
If a Code filer or Section 87200 filer receives a gift or gifts totaling $50 or more from a single source in the previous calendar year, then the gift or gifts must be disclosed on the Form 700. (Gov. Code, § 87210) The filers may not receive gifts totaling more than $460 (for 2015-2016) in any calendar year from a single source if they would be required by their agency's Code or Section 87200 to report income or gifts from that source on Form 700. (Gov. Code, § 89503; Cal. Code Regs., tit. 2, § 18940.2)
The Political Reform Act includes a broad definition of a "gift": anything of value that is received by a public official or employee for free or at a discount and which is not otherwise made available to members of the general public. This could include meals, tickets to concerts or sporting events and some forms of travel. There are some limited exceptions for gifts that are exchanged for holidays, birthdays and similar occasions, gifts received from relatives and informational materials that primarily convey information and are provided to assist the recipient in the performance of his or her official duties. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 2, §§ 18942, 18942.1) Because the reporting of gifts and other conflict of interest issues have drawn particular scrutiny and media attention recently, including a few high-profile enforcement actions, particular care should be taken to comply with the rules.
Under the Political Reform Act, required filings such as Form 700 must be open for public inspection and reproduction during a public agency's regular business hours. Although these disclosure requirements are similar to the Public Records Act, there are separate rules that apply. (Gov. Code, § 81008)
If you have any questions regarding the Political Reform Act's rules on gifts, when reporting is required, or updating your agency's conflict of interest code, please contact one of our nine offices
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