The Board of Ethics was asked to consider whether an email solicitation to “All Employees” by a Department Commissioner seeking monetary and food gifts for an employee whose husband had recently passed is a violation of the Code of Ethics.
Town Code Chapter 28, §28-5(A) as amended, states, in relevant part:
(a) No Town officer or employee shall solicit, accept or receive a gift in violation of section 805-a(1)(a) of the General Municipal Law as interpreted in this section.(b) No Town officer or employee may directly or indirectly solicit any gift.(c) No Town officer or employee may accept or receive any gift, or multiple gifts from the same donor, having an annual aggregate value of one hundred dollars ($100) or more when:
 the gift reasonably appears to be intended to influence the officer or employee in the exercise or performance of his or her official powers or duties;
 the gift could reasonably be expected to influence the officer or employee in the exercise or performance of his or her official powers or duties; or
 the gift is intended as a reward for any official action on the part of the officer or employee.
(e) This section does not prohibit any other gift, including:
 gifts from a person with a family or personal relationship with the officer or employee when the circumstances make it clear that the personal relationship, rather than the recipient's status as a Town officer or employee, is the primary motivating factor for the gift. gifts given on special occasions, such as marriage, illness, or retirement, which are modest, reasonable and customary;
The Board finds that the email does not amount to a Code of Ethics violation. First, the person soliciting the gifts was not the employee herself. Second, the type of gift received would not be prohibited pursuant to §28-5(A)(e), where donation would be based upon a personal relationship, or provided for a special occasion.
However, the Code of Ethics §28-1(B) also states that “[t]he proper administration of the government of the Town of Brookhaven requires its officers and employees, whether elected or appointed, paid or unpaid, including members of any administrative boards, commissions or other agencies, to be impartial and free from conflicts of interest, or even the appearance of conflicts…”
In this case, the sender of the email was a Commissioner and the message was a direct solicitation of gifts. The Board finds that such a direct solicitation could create a situation where employees feel pressured to provide such gifts due to the unequal power structure, and thus, create the appearance of a conflict. Therefore, best practices would discourage this type of email solicitation, and it is suggested that this become the Town policy. Approved by the Ethics Board – 10/5/2021