Shapiro announces three-part ethics package — including a more relaxed gift ban
‘We have to show up. And we have to be able to participate in the community again. But at the same time, my policy also includes a complete and total zero-tolerance policy toward lobbyists. No one will be able to buy improper influence within any member of my administration,’ Gov. Josh Shapiro said
Gov. Josh Shapiro delivers his inaugural address to Pennsylvania outside the Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023. (Commonwealth Media Services)
To end his first week in office, Gov. Josh Shapiro announced a three-part ethics package for cabinet members and executive branch employees, including a more relaxed gift ban than the last administration.
Shapiro, a Democrat who formally took office on Tuesday, signed an executive order on Friday prohibiting employees under his jurisdiction from accepting or soliciting gifts from lobbyists or special interest groups. But in a change from the Wolf administration, the executive order allows some exceptions, such as awards, T-shirts, occasional meals or beverages, pens, notepads, or mugs.
“We will serve with integrity and work to serve the interests of the people day in and day out,” Shapiro said during a press call Friday afternoon.
Commonwealth employees should not be afraid to have a cup of coffee with a local community organization, he said. Shapiro added that the education secretary should be allowed to visit a school and accept a T-shirt with the district’s name and logo. Both actions would have been prohibited under former Gov. Tom Wolf’s strict gift ban.
“We have to talk again. We have to have meaningful dialogue again. We have to show up. And we have to be able to participate in the community again,” Shapiro said. “But at the same time, my policy also includes a complete and total zero-tolerance policy toward lobbyists. No one will be able to buy improper influence within any member of my administration.”
Shapiro also announced that all cabinet members, the governor’s office staff, and senior state agency managers must sign an integrity pledge and attend mandatory ethics training. Eric Fillman, who served as the chief counsel for the House Ethics Committee and was the first-ever chief integrity officer under then-Attorney General Shapiro, will lead the training.
Fillman described the policy as “a return to reasonableness.”
“Nobody’s going to feel bribed over a bottle of water. Nobody’s going to feel unduly influenced over a cup of coffee,” Fillman said, explaining that the gift ban policy doesn’t outline specific values on what’s “reasonable” because prices can vary depending on location.
Employees, however, will have to use integrity and good judgment when deciding what to accept.
“In the end, it really comes down to [whether] things are being offered out of kindness or an attempt to influence because of one’s public position,” Fillman said. “And I think in the ethics training that we will do, we’ll make all of this very, very clear for everyone who attends the classes.”
About 3,500 commonwealth employees will be required to sign the pledge and attend the mandatory training, but Shapiro said he hopes to expand that number over time.
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