Philly Council proposes no cash, $99 limit on non-monetary gifts to city workers

     (Photo illustration by Kim Paynter/WHYY)

    (Photo illustration by Kim Paynter/WHYY)

    Government watchdogs have long criticized Philadelphia’s law governing gifts to city employees as too lax. Now, legislators are aiming to finally change that.

    On behalf of Council President Darrell Clarke, Councilman Bill Green introduced legislation Thursday that would bar cash gifts to employees, and set a $99 annual limit for non-monetary gifts. 

    “Where the current law leaves limits undefined,” Clarke said in a statement, “Council will now define them.”

    Ellen Kaplan, vice president of the political watchdog Committee of Seventy, said she is pleased that lawmakers are planning to update the 50-year-old rules. However, she would prefer that non-monetary gifts be capped at $50.

    “We think $99 is too high,” she said. “We think it still opens the door for petty corruption.”

    Councilwoman Marian Tasco, whose staff helped draft the proposal, said the threshold is consistent with other municipalities’ guidelines. Kaplan said some cities, such as New York City and Chicago, have $50 limits; others have higher ones.

    The Philadelphia Board of Ethics worked for months on interpreting the city’s current gifts law. It was scheduled to vote next month on a proposal that would have banned cash and set a $50 ceiling for non-monetary gifts. That effort is likely to be put on hold.

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