LAGUNA NIGUEL : City OKs Stringent Gift Restrictions Law


The City Council has approved an ordinance putting tighter restrictions on the gifts that elected and non-elected officials can receive.

The ordinance prohibits any city official from participating in or influencing a decision that would financially benefit someone from whom the official had received gifts valued at $100 or more in the preceding year.

Councilman Mark Goodman was the lone dissenter on the council’s 4-1 vote Tuesday, saying he favored a previous, more stringent proposal from a council-appointed committee that required elected officials to disqualify themselves from votes when they received gifts of at least $50.


The state Political Reform Act and the city’s conflict of interest code require city officials to report annually any gifts valued at $50 or more. But the state and city laws prohibit participating in a decision only if the elected officials received gifts totaling at least $250 from someone benefiting financially from that decision.

The city’s new gift restriction ordinance maintains the $50 reporting requirement while lowering the disqualification level to $100.

State law also prohibits elected officials from receiving gifts totaling more than $1,000 a year from any single source, but has no such ban on non-elected city officials. The ordinance approved by the council extends that $1,000 cap to all people appointed or hired to work for the city.

The new ordinance requires city officials to report all gifts from a calendar year by Jan. 31 of the following year, which is earlier than the April 1 state requirement.

Mike Retz, vice president of the Laguna Niguel Chamber of Commerce, told the council the chamber favored the state limits on gifts.

“It is our feeling that the ($100 limits) are exceedingly low,” Retz said.

Retz also questioned whether the stricter limits would hurt nonprofit groups and community organizations that ask council members and other city officials to attend and participate in dinners and events where meals and commemorative gifts are provided.


City Atty. Terry Dixon said such items would still fall under the new ordinance’s reporting requirements.

But realistically, Dixon said, chances are slim that a majority of council members would be precluded from voting on a community organization’s request because they exceeded the gift limit from that organization in the previous 12 months.