Local government employees, from the manager to the road crew, work very hard to improve the lives of residents. Sometimes residents or vendors want to thank employees for their service by giving them a gift and/or gratuity. Whether it comes in the form of sporting event tickets or homemade baked goods, gifts can easily create the appearance that such a "thank you" will translate into special treatment later. Creating a policy, with assistance from Tenet 12 of the ICMA Code of Ethics, can be helpful to guide all employees on what they can accept and what they need to respectfully decline. Remember, as the adage warns, "there's always free cheese in a mousetrap."
This article is an updated version of a column that originally appeared in PM Magazine in December 2011. Among other things, It reflects changes to the guidelines for Tenet 12. This article also appears in the e-book Ethics Matter! Advice for Public Managers.