It is not illegal for an association vendor, such as a landscaper or even law firms, to give board members nominal gifts over the holidays. They are given as a token of appreciation for their business relationship. Tickets to a baseball game, a fruit basket, a bottle of wine, or dinner at a restaurant, are examples of acceptable gifts. Gift-giving becomes a problem if the gift is significant enough that it influences a director's judgment. Giving board members cash or trips to Hawaii are examples of problem gifts. If directors approve contracts based on the gifts they receive, the gifts become bribes. That's why most organizations adopt ethics rules setting strict limits on gifts. (See House Ethics Manual for the U.S. Congress concerning gifts.)
Recommendation: Boards should adopt ethics rules so directors will know where ethical boundaries are located.
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