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Ask the Code

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Gift cards from members of the public

Dear Code,

I collect recycling and have had the same route for several years. One of my long-time customers has a tradition of giving our crew $5 Tim Horton’s cards around Christmas, which we always appreciate. Can we accept these gifts? Do I have to tell her to stop this practice?

~Grateful for Caffeine

Dear Grateful for Caffeine,

The Conflict of Interest says that you cannot accept any gift that has a cash equivalent so that includes gift cards of any amount. You can still accept gifts that are not cash or cash equivalent, such as a box of cookies, chocolate or candy canes.

If this amazing member of the public tries to give you a gift card this year, you should thank them and politely indicate that you cannot accept it based on our Conflict of Interest Policy.

Business lunch

Dear Code,

I have a business associate that I meet a few times a year over lunch. When the bill comes, they often reach for it first and insist on paying. Can I still have these lunches and can I let them pay for them?

~Bill Wrestler

Dear Mr. Wrestler,

The revisions to our Conflict of Interest Policy will not affect your lunch meetings, however, it does mean you’ll have to make as assessment about whether having your business associate pay for lunch creates a conflict of interest or a perceived conflict of interest. If paying for lunch could be perceived to influence your objectivity or place you under obligation to them, wrestle a bit harder to pay your portion of the bill. We want to ensure that it doesn’t appear that you are being influenced in any way by external contacts. In this circumstance, this means that as long as you cover the cost of your own meal, you are complying with the Policy. If it’s a business lunch, you can expense your portion of it and be reimbursed.

City discounts

Dear Code,

I know The City has a contract with a hardware supplier who provides materials to us at a discounted rate. I went to the same retailer over the weekend to buy tools for my own home renovations and they recognized me and offered the ‘City discount.’ I didn’t ask for this, so is it okay?

~Recognizable Handyman

Dear Recognizable,

Thank you for your question as this may be a common situation – especially for those who wear clothing with City identifiers or who interact with our vendors often. The answer is no, you cannot accept the City discount since this purchase is for your personal use. City employees cannot be perceived to have special privileges because of their role here.

You can say thanks so much for the offer but I need to pay the normal rate based on our Conflict of Interest Policy. If they refuse to treat you like other members of the public, you must decline and possibly take your business to a different retailer.

Gift cards from co-workers

Dear Code,

I received a $10 gift card to Starbucks from my supervisor to say thanks for some work I did on a project. That’s okay, right? 
~Coffee Bonus

Dear Coffee Bonus,

Way to go! Yes, the Conflict of Interest Policy does not impact gift cards given from one City employee to another. Time for a coffee!

Gift baskets

Dear Code,

A consultant we used sent me a gift basket of treats at the end of our project and it was delivered to my desk. What should I do? 
~Baffled by Basket

Dear Baffled,

In this case, as the project is complete and there is no future work planned with the consultant, nor any procurement process you are involved with happening in the near future; feel free to enjoy it and consider sharing it with your colleagues who helped support the project.

Holiday party

Dear Code,

The holidays are fast approaching and I’ve been invited to a party by an organization that we work with at The City. Can I accept the invitation and go? 
~Ivan Invited

Dear Ivan,

The answer is that “it depends.” You’ll have to make as assessment about whether attending the event creates a conflict of interest or a perceived conflict of interest. Ask yourself, does attending this party influence your objectivity or place you under obligation to them, or is there an impeding or ongoing procurement process with them that you’re involved with? If so, then you’ll have to decline the invitation. If not, and the optics of attending doesn’t create a negative perception, you can accept the invitation and go. If you are unsure, please speak to your supervisor or your Director.

Love connection

Dear Code,

I wasn’t in a personal relationship with anyone from our team when I started at The City but now I am. Do we need to disclose our connection to my leader? 
~Lucky in Love

Dear Lucky,

The answer to this is “it depends.” Are either of you are in a position to influence the other’s career? Do you supervise your significant other or vice versa? Would either of you have opportunity to influence compensation, promotions or the distribution of work? If so, you must disclose this to your leader(s) and step away from these types of decisions. If not, you are okay to continue as is. Should your position within your work area change so that you answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions you must disclose your relationship to your leader.  ​​

City tools

Dear Code,

The tools I use at work would be perfect for my backyard project. Can I borrow them?
~Art I. Handy

Dear Art,

Unfortunately, you cannot. A City employee can only use the assets, tools or equipment that they are given at work to fulfill their role. This is part of the ‘Using City Assets’ section of the Conflict of Interest Policy. You might want to consider using a tool rental business or tool library for a low cost solution for your backyard project.