HUNTINGTON BEACH : Proposal on Gift Limits Gets City OK


The City Council this week gave preliminary approval to a proposed ordinance that would prohibit public officials from accepting gifts worth more than $50 from anyone who does business with the city.

The ordinance bans gifts from lobbyists and anyone under contract with the city or seeking a grant or contract.

Pat Dapkus, management assistant, said the ordinance is intended to “preclude public officials from receiving gifts, period.”


“Essentially they can’t take anything of monetary value of someone who is doing business with the city or who potentially could do business with city,” she said.

The ordinance would allow “any food or beverages with a cumulative value of $50 from any single source within a 12-month period,” she said.

Councilwoman Grace Winchell said she would prefer a complete ban of food or gifts.

“I’d be happy for it to be zero,” she said. “I’d pay for my own lunch, but I do let people buy me a cup of coffee.”

Gifts also allowed include any food, beverages and free admission at any event sponsored by a charitable organizations with a cumulative value of $100 or less from any single source during a 12-month period.

Winchell, who served on a council committee that studied the gift issue, said city officials are invited to a number of fund-raisers by charities and are expected to attend.

“It’s being realistic because there are places where people want us to appear and we can’t afford to pay,” she said.


Other gift exceptions include informational material, such as books or reports, and flowers, plants, balloons or similar tokens that are given to express condolences, congratulations, sympathy, or to mark a special event as long as the value is not more than $50.

Councilman Jim Silva said that the ordinance was not a result of any abuse of power.

“We’ve never really had a problem with council members receiving gifts,” Silva said, adding that state guidelines are also very clear. “We’re just duplicating what’s already on the books.

“I think the city of Huntington Beach has always had elected officials who have worked within the framework of good moral conduct, which has served the citizens of Huntington Beach very well--and this new ordinance just reinforces that.”

Mayor Linda Moulton Patterson also said the ordinance ensures that city officials maintain the “very highest standards.”