By Eric Pilgrim | Fort Knox NewsDecember 2, 2019
'Tis the season to give and receive great gifts, but how great is too great when it comes to officemates?
According to Tim Goblirsch, chief of the Fort Knox Administrative Law Division, no more than $10 would be the going rate according to Department of Defense Regulation 5500.7-R.
"The primary limitation in the ethics rules deal with individuals who are superiors or supervisors receiving gifts from lower grade employees," said Goblirsch. "Supervisors or superiors cannot accept a gift from a lower-graded employee that would exceed $10 in value. There's no similar restriction for a supervisor providing a gift to a subordinate."
Goblirsch explained that the reason for this perceived discrepancy between what subordinates can give and what superiors can give has to do with the threat of bribery.
"The ethics rules are all about limiting somebody's ability to personally gain from their government position," said Goblirsch.
Because of the difference in giving limits, Goblirsch suggests offices conduct white elephant or secret Santa parties with a maximum giving rate of $10 each.
"You can't really control who the recipient is going to be," said Goblirsch.
There is sometimes confusion over the $300 limit that is given in the regulations. Goblirsch said that is for special, infrequent occasions--
"--particularly when the supervisory/subordinate relationship is ending. So when somebody is retiring or transferring, or PCSing to a new job, and the supervisory/subordinate relationship is being severed, then the $300 limit applies," said Goblirsch. "That wouldn't apply to the holidays."
Goblirsch said the rules are mostly understood clearly by superiors because they are still required to take part in annual ethics training.
"This is something that we cover in routine training," said Goblirsch.
Whereas subordinates may not always know these rules.
"Most of the workforce doesn't get ethics training any longer," said Goblirsch. "It goes to people who file financial disclosures."
One group that supervisors cannot accept gifts from includes the contractors.
"Contract workers are considered what are called 'prohibited sources,' so gifts from contract personnel should not be accepted," said Goblirsch.
While Goblirsch admits that gifts to contract personnel are not covered in the ethics regulations specifically, it still may not be a good idea to give gifts to them.
"As a general rule, in order to honor the arms-length relationship between the contractor and the government client, it's best not to have gifts given between those two workforces," said Goblirsch.
Gift-giving could potentially get a little fuzzy with food items. One way to look at it, according to Goblirsch, is to think of food items in terms of a common offering for everybody. For instance, providing coffee and donuts to an office party does not fall under the regulations of a gift, whereas providing a tin of coffee or a box of donuts to an individual would be a gift.
"If it's a meal, a meal would not fit that definition of modest snacks or refreshments," said Goblirsch. "In that case, it would be a gift."
For more information on the dos and don'ts of holiday gift giving, go to the link below or call 502-624-7414/4668.