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Government Ethics & Gifts


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As City officers and employees, we serve the public. Everyone who lives, works, or plays in San Francisco trusts us with important decisions, every day. We honor that trust by making decisions the right way, not for personal benefit. Ethics rules support the trust that the people of San Francisco have put on us. When our decisions are fair and transparent; when we are accountable to the public and to one another, we live up to our ideals. 

What does this have to do with gifts? 

If someone gives you a gift, they might expect something in return. If you accept a gift, you may feel pressured to give something in return. Even if you do not feel pressured to do anything in return, members of the public could perceive it differently. That is called a real or perceived conflict of interest. To ensure our government decisions are fair and not based on personal interest, state and local laws impose restrictions and limits on gifts. 

What are gifts?

A gift is something that gives you a personal benefit, for which you do not pay full price. These are some examples: 

  • Free or discounted passes and tickets to special events 
  • Free or discounted food and drink
  • Free or discounted travel or upgrades (airfare, accommodations, transportation, etc.)
  • Free or discounted services
  • Gift baskets
  • Gift cards
  • Any other discounts not available to the public
  • Other presents

These are only examples. Anything of value that is offered to you may be a gift.


Test your knowledge of the governmental ethics and gift rules. Take our pop quiz below: 

I am a City employee who provides direct services. A community member I have known for years sent me a lovely gift to thank me. I don’t think it is necessary, but I don’t want to be rude. Should I accept it? 
One of our contractors sent me and my colleagues tickets for the Warriors game. Can I accept them? 
It’s my boss’ birthday and I am thinking of getting them expensive tickets to the opera. They are such a good boss! Can I do that? 
A friend at a different department gave me a sweater for my birthday. Is this okay? 
Can you make the right choices when it comes to accepting gifts?


In simple terms, No. No employee should accept gifts from anyone other than the City for doing their jobs. Perhaps it would be helpful to explain that, while you really appreciate the gesture, it is your job to help the community. And that you aren’t allowed to accept gifts for doing that. 
No. You can’t accept anything over $25 from a contractor with your department. 
No. Your boss cannot accept anything of value (over $25) from an employee they supervise, not even on their birthday. Even if you scored a great deal and the tickets were under $25 total, in practical terms, you may be creating an awkward situation for your boss to navigate. It’s easier to just say “Happy Birthday!” 
Unless you have reason to believe your friend is trying to influence you in the performance of an official duty by giving you the sweater, it should be okay. However, if you are a Form 700 filer, this may be a reportable gift, and subject to the annual limit, depending on your filing requirement. 
How did you do?

Have questions about gift rules?

Contact us at 415-252-3100 or at

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