Invitation from an Entity (M01-17/18)

A public servant was invited to an event by an entity. The value of the event exceeded $200.00. The entity had previously done work for the Crown in the area in which the public servant works. The entity does not currently have a contract with the Crown. But the entity might in future bid on work for the Crown.

Section 4 prohibits a public servant from accepting a gift from specified persons and entities if a reasonable person might conclude that the gift could influence the public servant when performing his or her duties for the Crown. The persons and entities include those that seek to do business with the Crown. A gift includes a benefit of any kind.

In the circumstances, the ethics executive directed the public servant to decline the invitation.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 4.

 

Free Ticket (C02-12/13)

A public servant sought a determination as to whether he/she would be permitted to accept a one-time free ticket from a stakeholder to an event aimed at gathering stakeholders and communities to share information. The cost of the ticket was greater than nominal value.

The Commissioner determined that while it was appropriate for the public servant to attend the stakeholder event, a reasonable person might conclude that the ticket was offered by the stakeholder in hope of furthering future business opportunities with the Crown. The Commissioner recommended that the public servant purchase the ticket and seek reimbursement for the expense in the usual way, in keeping with the government’s policy of being open and transparent.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 4.

Prize of Greater than Nominal Value (C04-12/13)

An ethics executive sought advice as to whether a public servant would be permitted to keep a prize, of greater than nominal value, which he/she had won as a result of attending a conference on behalf of the Crown.

The Commissioner advised the ethics executive to consider whether the prize was meant to influence the public servant in the performance of his/her duties. The Commissioner was of the view that the organizers of the conference were not seeking to influence the public servant, given that the public servant’s name was selected at random from a list of all conference attendees.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 4.

Gift as a Token of Appreciation (C05-12/13)

A public servant in a public body was presented with a gift as a token of appreciation for speaking at an event hosted by a private entity that neither does, nor seeks to do business with the Crown. Subsequent to accepting the gift, the public servant became aware that the gift had a greater than nominal value.

The Commissioner noted that while the private entity does not currently do business with the Crown, the public servant had received the gift in his/her public service capacity. Accordingly, the Commissioner determined that the public servant should not accept the gift personally, since public servants should not use their positions to benefit themselves. The public servant could accept the gift on behalf of the public body and display it in a public area of the public body’s offices.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 4.

Attend a Fundraising Dinner as Guests (C17-11/12)

The Commissioner’s advice was sought as to whether it would be appropriate for a class of senior public servants to attend a fundraising dinner as guests of a key government stakeholder or whether they should be required to pay the full price of a ticket. These senior public servants were likely to be regarded as key participants in the event, and it was to provide a valuable opportunity for dialogue and relationship-building.

The Commissioner was of the view that it would be inappropriate for the senior public servants in question to attend the function as guests of the stakeholder. It could be perceived that the key government stakeholder was providing the class of senior public servants with a gift, of greater than nominal value, in the hope of doing business with the Crown, and this would be contrary to section 4 (accepting gifts) of the regulation. A further issue was the fact that the event was a fundraiser and a portion of the ticket price would go to the stakeholder. The Commissioner’s advice was that public funds should not be used towards the fundraising efforts of a government stakeholder. In order to mitigate the risk of conflicts, the Commissioner suggested that, rather than purchase tickets at the full price, the public servants determine the per-person cost of the dinner, and each public servant pay only that portion of the price of a ticket. Thus, the public servants would neither attend at the expense of the stakeholder nor contribute to the fundraising. The public servants were advised to then request reimbursement for the paid portion in accordance with government directives that are in place for out-of-pocket expenditures. This procedure would ensure openness and transparency with regard to the expenditure of public funds.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 4.

Payment Received (C14-09/10)

A public servant for whom the commissioner is the ethics executive sought the commissioner’s advice upon receiving a one-time payment of approximately $900 in connection with attendance at an event on behalf of the Ontario government.

The commissioner advised that the rules prohibiting the acceptance of gifts of greater than nominal value did not apply because the sum was not received from a prohibited person, group, or entity. However, the public servant received the payment while on government business, for which he/she was already receiving a salary. Thus, the payment would represent a benefit if the public servant were to keep it, which would likely contravene section 3. Accordingly, the commissioner advised that, unless the payment was used to compensate the public servant for any non-reimbursed, authorized expenses incurred while attending the event, retaining the payment would contravene conflict of interest rules.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 3 & 4.

Free Tickets (C08-08/09)

The chair of an adjudicative agency asked the commissioner to determine whether it would be appropriate for him/her to accept free tickets, of nominal value, to an event hosted by a private sector organization. The chair was the former chair of a regulatory agency responsible for governing and regulating the private sector organization.

In his capacity as the chair’s ethics executive, the commissioner determined that the role and function of the adjudicative agency the individual presently chaired had no connection to the private sector organization offering the tickets, and that the chair no longer had any decision-making power with respect to the regulation of the private sector organization. The commissioner thus determined that accepting the invitation would not influence the chair in performing his/her current duties as chair of an adjudicative agency. Accordingly, accepting free tickets of nominal value under these circumstances was not prohibited under section 4(1) of Ontario Regulation 381/07.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 4.

Private Sector Event Tickets (C09-07/08)

The chair of a regulatory agency asked the commissioner to determine whether it would be appropriate for the chair to accept free tickets to two events hosted by a private sector organization.

In his capacity as the chair’s ethics executive, the commissioner determined that accepting the free tickets would be prohibited under section 4(1) of Ontario Regulation 381/07 because the tickets had a relatively high face value, the agency regularly makes decisions that may affect the organization’s business, and a reasonable person might conclude that the gift could influence the chair when performing his/her decision-making duties.

The commissioner directed the chair not to accept the free tickets. The commissioner also advised the chair that the PSOA would not prohibit the chair from attending the events if he/she paid for the tickets. The chair confirmed that he/she would not accept the free tickets, but would pay for them if he/she decided to attend the events.

O. Reg. 381/07, s. 4.