Council committee OKs $99 gift cap

Posted: February 26, 2014

CITY COUNCIL is one step closer to getting its $99 gift limit - almost double the amount recommended by the ethics board - after a Council committee yesterday approved President Darrell Clarke's bill setting that limit.

Members of the committee on rules and government were not persuaded by the ethics board or the Committee of Seventy's stricter recommendations on gift limits a city worker can accept. The measure now goes before the full Council on Thursday for consideration.

The city has no hard limits on the value of gifts that elected officials or their staff may accept. Both Clarke and the ethics board agree that no one may accept cash gifts.

"Obviously, you know that the board of ethics has been grappling with agonizing detail over what the city's gifts rule should be," said Ellen Kaplan, vice president and policy director for the Committee of Seventy.

"For $99, you can eat at some of the most expensive places in town," Kaplan said.

But Councilman Jim Kenney argued that many times elected officials - simply for being just that - are given concert or sports tickets but often pass them along to others.

"If I get four tickets to an Eagles game and I give them to four nuns who are working with the homeless, is that improper?" Kenney asked.

"It doesn't give me any particular political advantage. It makes me feel good to take care of people who can't do things for themselves. I'm just a conduit."

On Twitter: @RuffTuffDH

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