CEO 16-10—August 3, 2016
GIFT ACCEPTANCE AND DISCLOSURE
VALUATION OF ATTENDANCE AT CHARITY POLO MATCH
To: Ms. Laurie Cohen, Village Attorney (Wellington)
Under the circumstances presented, attendance at a charity polo match is a gift valued at $895 per person for the disclosure required under Section 112.3148(8), Florida Statutes. Since the value of an admission exceeds $100, each reporting individual who accepted admission(s) to this May 2016 event is required to make disclosure on CE Form 9, on or before the last day of the calendar quarter ending September 30, 2016.
Referenced are CEO 06-27, 05-5, 04-12, and 95-36. 1
What is the value of admissions to a charity event for disclosure purposes pursuant to Section 112.3148(8), Florida Statutes?
Under the circumstances presented, your question is answered as set forth below.
In your letter of inquiry and in conversations with our staff, you advise that you are requesting this opinion on behalf of the Village of Wellington and its staff. You state that the Village of Wellington Council (Village Council), their spouses, and certain senior staff members were invited to attend the Sentebale Royal Salute Polo Cup charitable polo match featuring Prince Harry of Wales on Thursday, May 5, 2016. The event, which featured a polo match, dinner, and carriage rides was intended to raise funds for the Prince's charity, "Sentebale."
You further state that the polo match was a private "invitation only" event and no tickets were available for sale to the public. Rather, sponsors of the event made charitable donations to Sentebale and received in exchange a certain number of tables, each seating ten people. The official price of a table was $30,000, and the lowest sponsorship level was $50,000. You further relate that one of Wellington's polo team owners, Valiente, was the host, organizer, and primary sponsor of the event. During conversations with our staff you stated that as a condition of the event, Valiente agreed to pay for the entirety of the cost of the event including all food, beverages, transportation, and entertainment provided during the event. Moreover, all of the donations provided by invited sponsors of the event went directly to the charity, Sentebale. In addition, you state that neither the organizer nor any of the business entities associated with the event is a vendor of the Village of Wellington, nor are they lobbyists or the principals of lobbyists.
Initially, the organizer of the event offered a total of 14 tickets to the Village Council, their spouses, and certain senior staff members. Following inquiries from Village Council staff regarding the per-person cost of the event, a second invitation originating from the charity itself, Sentebale, inviting members of the Village Council and identifying the per-person cost of the event as $895 was received by the Village Council. Thus, you inquire regarding the valuation of the event for disclosure purposes.
Section 112.312(12)(a), Florida Statutes, defines the term "gift" as follows:
'Gift,' for purposes of ethics in government and financial disclosure required by law, means that which is accepted by a donee or by another on the donee's behalf, or that which is paid or given to another for or on behalf of a donee, directly, indirectly, or in trust for the donee's benefit or by any other means, for which equal or greater consideration is not given within 90 days, including:
10. Entrance fees, admission fees, or tickets to events, performances, or facilities.
Under the circumstances described herein, the 14 admissions into the polo match are each a "gift" for purposes of Section 112.312(12)(a), Florida Statutes, as each constitutes admission to an event. Regarding the acceptance of gifts, Section 112.3148(8), Florida Statutes, requires a "reporting individual" to file a quarterly gift disclosure CE Form 9 disclosing allowable gifts worth in excess of $100. At the local government level, these two provisions only apply to "reporting individuals," which Section 112.3148(2)(d), Florida Statutes, defines to mean persons who file financial disclosure. Members of the Village Council are required to file a CE Form 1, Statement of Financial Interests, annually and thus these provisions are applicable to them, and to any other Village personnel who are required to file annual financial disclosure.
You advise that the conference organizer, Valiente, provided the entirety of the funding for the event and all sponsorship contributions were donated directly to the charity, Sentebale. Pursuant to additional communications with our staff you state that the donor of the tickets (admissions) in the instant matter was the conference organizer and that the 14 tickets at issue were associated with a previously unassigned table set aside by Valiente for overflow purposes and under the organizer's control. As stated above, neither the conference organizer nor any business entity associated therewith are vendors of the Village of Wellington, lobbyists, or the principal of lobbyists for the purposes of the Section 112.3148, Florida Statutes.
With regard to valuation, Section 112.3148(7), Florida Statutes, provides in pertinent part:
(a) The value of a gift provided to a reporting individual or procurement employee shall be determined using actual cost to the donor, less taxes and gratuities, except as otherwise provided in this subsection, and, with respect to personal services provided by the donor, the reasonable and customary charge regularly charged for such service in the community in which the service is provided shall be used. If additional expenses are required as a condition precedent to eligibility of the donor to purchase or provide a gift and such expenses are primarily for the benefit of the donor or are of a charitable nature, such expenses shall not be included in determining the value of the gift.
(h) Entrance fees, admission fees, or tickets shall be valued on the face value of the ticket or fee, or on a daily or per event basis, whichever is greater.
(j) The value of a gift provided to several individuals may be attributed on a pro rata basis among all of the individuals. If the gift is food, beverage, entertainment, or similar items, provided at a function for more than 10 people, the value of the gift to each individual shall be the total value of the items provided divided by the number of persons invited to the function, unless the items are purchased on a per person basis, in which case the value of the gift to each person is the per person cost.
In CEO 95-36, the Commission on Ethics opined that Section 112.3148(7)(a), Florida Statutes, sets forth the general principle that gifts are to be valued in accordance with the "actual cost to the donor." See also CEO 04-12. The latter provisions of Section 112.3148(7) then provide more specific valuation criteria governing specific circumstances or specific types of gifts. In addition, in Chapter 34-13, Florida Administrative Code, the Commission has promulgated rules to further elucidate the valuation principles expressed in Section 112.3148(7). Rule 34-13.500(5) states:
A ticket, entrance fee, or admission fee, such as a golf greens fee, which admits the donee to an event, function, or activity, is valued on the face value of the ticket or fee, or on a daily or per event basis, whichever is greater.
In the instant matter, the event was a private, invitation-only function wherein no tickets were available for sale to the public. Rather, sponsors of the event contributed monetary donations at different sponsorship levels directly to the charity itself and thereafter received a corresponding number of tables commensurate with their sponsorship level. The tickets circulated to attendees permitted admittance for each individual and reflected no face value. However, the conference organizer, and donor of the 14 admissions at issue, confirmed that the actual per person cost of the event was $895. This number was derived in accordance with the methodology contained in Section 112.3148(7)(j), Florida Statutes, by calculating the total cost of all items provided during the event ($358,000) including the cost of all food, beverages, and entertainment, divided by the 400 guests invited to attend the event. Thus, in the instant case, the cost of each admission is $895. As this gift exceeds the value of $100, in accordance with Section 112.3148(8), Florida Statutes, each reporting individual that accepted admission(s) to this May 2016 event is required to disclose the receipt of this gift on a CE Form 9, on or before September 30, 2016.
Your question is answered accordingly.
ORDERED by the State of Florida Commission on Ethics meeting in public session on July 29, 2016 and RENDERED this 3rd day of August, 2016.
Matthew F. Carlucci, Chair
Prior opinions of the Commission on Ethics can be viewed at www.ethics.state.fl.us.