Rules on Gifts

Ethics Question?

For questions about the ethical administration of an activity or operation at George Mason University, please contact:

Elizabeth Woodley
University Ethics Officer and Outside Interests Manager
Phone: 703-993-5115

Office Location:
Fairfax Campus
117 Northeast Module II

Mailing Address:
George Mason University
Office of University Audit
4400 University Drive, MS 1A2
Fairfax, Virginia 22030-4444

Give It Some Thought Before Accepting a Gift

As employees of George Mason University, we are also employees of the Commonwealth of Virginia. We're held to high standards and must follow strict rules. Getting some guidance on what we can and can't do can provide peace of mind.

A gift is anything having monetary value, including items and services (clothing items, food, travel, tickets to entertainment, discounts, etc.). Gifts with a value of less than $20 do not count as gifts under the COI statute, but they do count under the Ethics in Public Contracting statute for employees with responsibility over procurement transactions.

All employees are prohibited from accepting:

  • Gifts as a quid-pro-quo for doing or not doing something related to their official duties, or for obtaining employment or a contract with the Commonwealth.
  • Gifts that reasonably tend to influence them in the performance of official duties or under circumstances in which the timing and nature of the gift would cause a reasonable person to question their impartiality in a transaction or decision.
  • Gifts from sources on a basis so frequent as to raise an appearance of the use of public office for private gain.

Special Rule for Statement of Economic Interest (SEI) filers

SEI filers and members of their immediate families shall not accept any single gift with a value in excess of $100 or any combination of gifts with an aggregate value in excess of $100 within any calendar year from:

  • a registered lobbyist.
  • a lobbyist's principal.
  • a person or organization who is or is seeking to become a party to a contract with Mason.

Gifts with a value of less than $20 are not subject to aggregation for purposes of this prohibition.

Exceptions include:

  • Food or beverages consumed while attending an event at which the filer is performing official duties related to his public service. 
  • Food and beverages received at or registration or attendance fees waived for any event at which the filer is a featured speaker, presenter, or lecturer.
  • Travel paid for or provided by the government of the United States, any of its territories, or any state or any political subdivision of such state. 
  • Travel related to an official meeting of a board, etc. of the Commonwealth to which the filer has been appointed or elected or is a member by virtue of his office or employment.
  • Gifts from relatives.

Ethics in Public Contracting (Procurement Rules)

No public employee with official responsibility for a procurement transaction shall accept from a bidder, offeror, contractor or subcontractor any gift of more than nominal or minimal value. Nominal value is defined to basically include pens and notebooks, etc., that are handed out as promotions at conferences.