Briefing on Government Ethics Considerations

On Monday, February 27, the National Governors Association hosted its monthly legal counsel briefing, which discussed state and territorial ethics issues.

Ensuring high ethical standards for both the government institution and the process of making public policy decisions is a foremost concern for all Governors. Most states have constitutional or statutory ethics laws and an independent government ethics body that oversees certain state/territorial employees and operations. Further, many Governors choose to establish their own ethical standards or codes of conduct for executive branch employees or others. Goals of such orders may include improving government efficiency or expanding and underscoring the commitment the administration has to high standards of ethics, integrity, and transparency.

The briefing also discussed state and territorial gift laws. Most gift policies are found in state ethics statutes—which generally outline state ethics rules, including when a public official may or may not accept a gift. State ethics laws generally restrict gifts to public officials as a means of preventing the possibility that a gift could appear to improperly influence official action. Laws typically state who they apply to, define what a “gift” is, discuss potential discrepancies in application depending on the circumstance and gift giver, and provide for exceptions. Governors may also outline codes of ethics and further establish gift protocol and process in executive orders, agency directives, internal communication, or other forms of state guidance.

NGA holds monthly briefings for Governors’ legal counsel. Please reach out to Lauren Dedon ( for additional information.