present-16ufgnb.jpgDana Plato is a 6th grade student at a public school in south Texas.  Plato’s favorite teacher is Mr. Socrates, who teaches world geography.  Unfortunately, world geography is Plato’s worst subject.  In fact, Plato is dangerously close to failing the course.  Whether or not she passes is dependent upon how she scores on the final exam, which is scheduled the week before Winter Break.  The day of the final exam arrives and as Plato turns in her test, she hands Mr. Socrates a Christmas present — a $100 gift card to his favorite restaurant, The Republic.  Can Mr. Socrates keep Plato’s generous present?

Mr. Socrates may accept a gift from Plato so long as the gift is not in exchange for preferential treatment or giving a passing grade.  However, the amount of the gift may not exceed $50 and cannot be cash or another negotiable instrument.  Thus, even if Mr. Socrates was able to convince himself that the gift came with no strings attached, the amount of the gift is too high for a public school teacher (a public servant) to accept.

Tilting the Scales In Your Favor

If your company conducts business with governmental agencies or officials, keep in mind that section 36.10 of the Texas Penal Code prohibits gifts in excess of $50 to all public servants, which includes public school teachers.  While gift cards are not considered negotiable instruments, they often can be converted into cash and might, when given to a public servant, have the appearance of being improper.  Regardless of the value of the gift, it is a crime (bribery) for a public servant to accept a benefit as consideration for a decision, vote or exercise of discretion.