Mayor Chris Beutler today signed an executive order that bans the acceptance of gifts by City employees. City Council member Doug Emery joined the Mayor at today's announcement of the ban and said he would ask other Council members to consider adopting the same gift policy. The Mayor said the new rules were issued to "further the cause of good government and ensure public confidence in our public servants" and not as a response to any reported problems.
"I can honestly tell you that the people in City government are people of integrity who give their all each and every day to make this City the best it can be," Mayor Beutler said. "Perception, however, accurate or not, can be a powerful force in shaping public opinion. If the public believes that impropriety can and may exist, we can never achieve all we can be. The rules that govern City Hall must never leave a doubt that our employees are acting in good faith, that their guiding principle is policy, and not personal gain."
"I believe that Council leadership on this issue sends the right message to our employees and our community," Emery said. "We cannot ask the community to follow our lead if they are suspicious of our motives. A ban on gifts demonstrates that we are in this together and that we are united in our mission of creating a better Lincoln."
The State's Political Accountability and Disclosure Act prohibits City employees from using their positions to solicit or accept anything of value in exchange for a favor. Lincoln's municipal code includes a similar prohibition. The new executive order replaces one from 1985 that allows for the acceptance of gifts valued at less than $10. Beutler said a weakness of the previous executive order is that it did not limit the number of gifts that could be received. The executive order also extends the ban to employees' spouses, children and parents.
Beutler said the policy allows for "common sense exceptions," including gifts of snacks for holidays and other occasions; flowers received in connection with funerals; admission to events employees are required to attend for official City business; and ceremonial gifts given to the City.
"The existing State law, City ordinances and executive order are not enough," Beutler said. "The new guidelines are more fair, more clear and more representative of the ethical standard for employees expected by my Administration and the public."