Last updated: February 20. 2013 2:01AM - 462 Views

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County officials have hung up signs in Luzerne County government office buildings and senior centers to publicize a ban on gifts for county employees.

The prohibition stems from the ethics code adopted under home rule, which says no gifts may be accepted, directly or indirectly, from people or businesses regulated and inspected by the county or with existing or potential county financial relationships.

The signs say employees are prohibited from receiving any form of objects of appreciation or monetary gifts from outside sources.

County Manager Robert Lawton said some vendors -- he didn't have an exact number -- sent gift baskets to county offices during the holiday because they weren't aware of the ban.

Workers were instructed to politely decline the gifts and request they be returned to the senders with an explanation of the reason, he said.

Baskets that were dropped off without cards or the opportunity to return them through a delivery person were donated to Ruth's Place homeless shelter and the Domestic Violence Service Center in order to brighten their holiday, he said.

Because any remaining baskets will ultimately be donated to these organizations, vendors might wish to make donations directly to these organizations or other community service groups in the future, Lawton said.

He said the gestures were appreciated and emphasized notes to employees or letters to their supervisors about their work are still permissible.

It's great to know that people pay attention to the quality of work our staff does on a daily basis and would want to acknowledge that with a gift, he said.

The ban also applies to meals, calendars, desk blotters, pens and other office supplies from outside parties, he said.

Lawton said workers must reject all items that could be interpreted as gifts because the ethics code doesn't draw any distinctions for items below certain dollar amounts. It's unclear if the definition of gifts will be enhanced as part of council's upcoming code amendments.

Elected county officials also must adhere to the ban. Last year several council members donated temporary bus passes from the transportation authority to Ruth's Place.

County Controller Walter Griffith said he also declined a lunch offer from the county's new financial software company.

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