QUESTION: Is it illegal for a contractor, e.g., landscaper, roofer, etc. to take board members on trips to the wine country, Las Vegas, etc. and pay their way?
ANSWER: The act of giving or receiving a gift is not illegal. It is common for vendors, including law firms, to give nominal gifts to clients over the Christmas holiday in December. It is given as a token of appreciation for their business relationship with the client. Acceptable gifts are tickets to a baseball game, a fruit basket, a bottle of wine, dinner at a restaurant, etc.
Problem Gifts. However, gift-giving becomes a problem if the gift influences a director's judgment. 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.) Your association should adopt its own ethics rules so board members will know where the ethical boundaries are located.
ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.