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Ethics in Government Policy

ATLANTA 30334-0900
Roy E. Barnes
Penny Brown Reynolds Executive Counsel

TO: All Agency Heads
FROM: Penny Brown Reynolds
Executive Counsel
DATE: January 29, 1999
RE: Ethics in Government Policy

    On January 12, 1999, Governor Barnes signed an Executive Order establishing an Ethics in Government Policy for employees of the Executive Branch, including all employees of the Governor's Office. Due to a number of comments from many of you regarding the policy, we have attempted to further clarify the order. Please find attached a copy of the revised Executive Order signed by Governor Barnes that has technical changes. Familiarize yourself with the Executive Order without delay. Additionally, attached is a copy of the Report of Gift Received by Employee on Behalf of Government or Charitable Organization form.

    Pursuant to the Order all Executive Branch employees supervised by the Governor are prohibited from accepting a gift from any person unless the person is an employee’s relative or a personal friend of the employee who is neither a lobbyist and/or a vendor of the state. However, the order does specify certain exceptions.

    Please note that each Agency shall make a copy of this order available to all employees and shall institute procedures for its enforcement consistent with all applicable Georgia laws.

    It is important to convey to the employees that violation of the order may subject an employee to disciplinary action, including termination of employment.



WHEREAS: The Official Code of Georgia, Section 45-10-1 (1968 Ga. Laws 1369) established the Code of Ethics For Government Service for exhibiting to the public and employees of the state and all governments therein; and
WHEREAS: To maintain the public trust, it is essential that government function honestly and fairly, furthering the public, not private or personal interest; and

WHEREAS: Appointed officials and employees of the state must maintain and exercise the highest standards of duty to the public in carrying out the responsibilities and functions of their positions; and

WHEREAS: Self-interest, partiality and prejudice have no place in decision-making for the public good; and

WHEREAS: To maintain the integrity, of Georgia's state government, those entrusted with authority must exercise it for the good of the public; and

WHEREAS: The State of Georgia is committed to the responsible exercise of authority by persons of honor and good will in their government, by adopting an ethics policy to prevent all forms of impropriety, threats, favoritism, and undue influence;


ORDERED: That an ETHICS IN GOVERNMENT POLICY for employees of the Executive Branch of the State is hereby established to encourage a commitment of fidelity to the public interest for the people of Georgia.


Section 1. Persons Subject to this Executive order and Definitions

The following persons are subject to this Executive Order:

  1. All employees in the Office of the Governor and in any agency.
  2. Agency heads who are appointed by the Governor.
  3. As used in this Order the term:
  1. "Agency" means, any agency, authority, department, board, bureau, commission, council, corporation, entities or instrumentality of the State, except those headed by an elected official other than the Governor, and others as may be designated by the Governor, but shall not include political subdivisions of the State.
  2. "Agency head" means the executive head of an agency.
  3. "Employee" means any agency head, and all individuals employed by the Office of the Governor and in any agency.
  4. "Gift" means food, lodging, transportation, personal services, a gratuity, subscription, membership, trip, loan, extension of credit, forgiveness of debt, advance or deposit of money, or anything of value. A "gift" shall not include:
  1. Food or beverage consumed at a single meal or event;
  2. Legitimate salary, benefits, fees, commissions, or expenses associated with a recipient’s nonpublic business, employment, trade, or profession;
  3. An award, plaque, certificate, memento, or similar item given in recognition of the recipient's civic, charitable, political, professional, private or public service, or achievement;
  4. Food, beverages, and registration at group events to which all members of an agency are invited;
  5. Actual and reasonable expenses for food, beverages, travel, lodging, and registration provided to permit participation in a meeting related to official or professional duties, if participation has been approved in writing by the agency head or, in the case of the Office of the Governor, by the Executive Counsel;
  6. Promotional items generally distributed to the general public;
  7. A gift from a relative or personal friend of the employee who is neither a lobbyist nor a "vendor," as the latter term is defined in O.C.G.A. Section 45-1-6(a)(5); or
  8. Food, beverage, or expenses afforded employees, relatives, or others that are associated with normal and customary business or social functions or activities.
  1. "Lobbyist" shall have the meaning defined in O.C.G.A. Section 21-5-70 (6);
  2. "Person" means an individual, partnership, committee, association, corporation, labor organization, or any other organization or group of individuals;
  3. "Relative" means a spouse, parent, child, stepparent , stepchild, grandparent, grandchild, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, aunt, uncle, great aunt, great uncle, niece, or nephew, by blood, marriage, or adoption;
  4. "Value" means the actual retail price or cost attributable to a gift, less applicable taxes and gratuities or a reasonable estimate based upon customary charges for like goods or services in the locality, prorated among all recipients of each single gift whether or not all recipients are employees. Gifts shall be valued on a per-occurrence basis, but lodging provided on consecutive days, and membership dues paid during any one-year period, shall be considered and valued as a single gift. Specific types of gifts shall be valued on the following basis:
  1. Transportation, by air or rail, shall be based on the ticket cost or coach or class equivalent value.
  2. Ground transportation shall be valued on cost or the mileage rate reimbursed by the state.
  3. Entrance fees, admission fees, or other tickets shall be valued at the face value of the ticket or fee, excluding any portion attributable to a charitable contribution, if provided by the charitable organization.
  1. "Charitable organization" shall have the meaning defined in O.C.G.A. Section 45-20-51.
Section 2. Rules of Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch of the State

Employees of the State shall perform their official duties in such a manner as to promote the best interest of the public. To help ensure the proper performance of their duties, the following Rules of Conduct are adopted.

  1. Reporting and Prohibited Receipt of Gifts by State Employees
    1. An employee or any other person, on his or her behalf is prohibited from knowingly accepting, directly or indirectly, a gift from any person or lobbyist. If a gift has been accepted, it must be either returned to the donor or transferred to a charitable organization. However, a gift may be accepted by an employee on behalf of the agency or the Office of the Governor. If the gift is accepted, the person receiving the gift shall not maintain custody of the gift for any period of time beyond that reasonably necessary to arrange for the transfer, of custody and ownership of the gift.
    2. An employee, who accepts a gift for an agency or for the Office of the Governor, must file a report no later than the last day of each quarter in which a reportable gift is made. The report shall be filed with the employee's agency head and in the case of the Governor's Office with the Executive Counsel. The report must contain a description of each gift, the monetary value thereof, the name and address of the person making such gift, the name and address of the recipient of the gift, and the date such gift is given. The donor shall be notified that the gift will be reported, but a single gift need not be reported by more than one employee.
  2. Conflict of Interest
    1. An employee shall not knowingly use his or her position in any manner which will result in financial benefit or a gift, direct or indirect, to the employee, the employee's relatives, or an individual with whom or business as to which the employee has a financial interest.
      1. This provision shall not be applicable to financial and other benefits derived by an employee that he or she would enjoy to an extent no greater than that which other citizens of Georgia would or could enjoy.
      2. This provision shall not be applicable to financial and other benefits rightfully gained by an employee pursuant to the proper performance of his or her official responsibilities.
      3. This provision shall not be applicable to the exceptions to prohibited transactions set forth in O.C.G.A. Sections 45-10-23 and 45-10-2.
      4. This provision shall not be applicable to financial benefits accruing to any individual employed by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, if such employee has complied with all applicable guidelines and regulations established by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia and by the employee's academic institution, and all state and Federal laws and regulations regarding conflicts of interest.
      5. This provision shall not be applicable to such further exceptions as may be made on a case-by-case basis upon application to the Executive Counsel.
    2. An employee shall not directly or knowingly ask, accept, demand, extract, solicit, seek, assign or receive a financial benefit or gift for himself or herself or for another person in return for being influenced in the discharge of his or her official responsibilities.
    3. An employee shall not solicit or receive a financial benefit or a gift other than a financial benefit received by the employee for acting in his or her official capacity, for advice or assistance given in the course of carrying out the employee's official responsibilities.
    4. An employee shall not disclose information gained in the course of, or by reason of, his or her official responsibilities in a way that would affect a personal financial interest of the employee, an employee's relative, or a person with whom or business with which the employee shares a financial interest.
    5. An employee shall not cause the employment, appointment, promotion, transfer, or advancement of a relative to an employment position with an agency or with the Office of the Governor which the employee directly supervises or manages. An employee shall not participate in an action relating to the disciplining of a relative.
  3. Appearance of Conflict
    1. An employee shall make every reasonable effort to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. An appearance of conflict exists when a reasonable person would conclude from the circumstances that the employee's ability to protect the public interest, or perform public duties, is compromised by personal interests. An appearance of conflict could exist even in the absence of a legal conflict of interest.
    2. An employee shall recuse himself or herself from participation in any official proceeding in which the employee's impartiality might reasonably be questioned due to the employee's personal or financial relationship with any participant in the proceeding, including an owner, shareholder, partner, employee, or agent of a business entity involved in the proceeding. If the employee is uncertain whether the relationship justifies recusal, then the employee shall disclose the relationship to the person presiding over the proceeding. The presiding officer shall determine the extent to which, if any, the employee will be permitted to participate. If the presiding officer is the affected employee, he or she shall relinquish the chair to a substitute who shall make the determination.
  4. Other Rules of Conduct
    1. The agency head shall make a due and diligent effort to determine whether he or she has a conflict of interest or appearance of conflict before taking any action.
    2. The agency head shall continually monitor, evaluate, and manage his or her personal, financial, and professional affairs to ensure the absence of conflicts of interests and appearance of conflicts.
Section 3. Sanctions
Each agency shall make a copy of this Order available to all employees and shall institute procedures for its enforcement consistent with all applicable Georgia laws. Violation of this Order may subject an employee to disciplinary action, including termination of employment, subject to review by the Executive Counsel. The agency head of each agency shall be responsible to the Office of the Governor for the faithful enforcement of this Order, and shall report all alleged violations and their disposition to the Executive Counsel.

ORDERED: This 29th day of January, 1999.