Despite objections, Council's $99 gift limit makes gains

City Council is one step closer today to getting its $99 gift limit – almost double the amount recommended by the ethics board – after Council President Darrell Clarke’s bill was swiftly punted out of committee with an A-OK.

Members of the committee on rules and government were not persuaded by the ethics board or the Committee of Seventy’s stricter recommendations on gift limits a city worker can accept. The measure now goes before the full Council Thursday for consideration.

The city currently has no hard limits on the value of gifts elected officials or their staff can accept. Both Clarke and the ethics board agree to no cash gifts.

“Obviously, you know that the board of ethics has been grappling with agonizing detail over what the city’s gifts rule should be,” said Ellen Kaplan, vice president and policy director for the Committee of Seventy.

“Just one more dollar,” said Kaplan, and city employees can enjoy some old Philly fare but on a silver platter – Barclay Prime’s “Classic Philly Cheesesteak” – “with Wagyu beef ribeye and foie gras, topped truffled fontina cheese on a sesame roll, plus a glass of champagne.

“That’s an amazing meal. For $99 you can eat at some of the most expensive places in town,” said Kaplan.

But Councilman Jim Kenney argued that many times elected officials – simply for being just that – are given concert or sports tickets but often pass them along to others.

“If I get four tickets to an Eagles’ game and I give them to four nuns who are working with the homeless, is that improper?” asked Kenney.

“It doesn’t give me any particular political advantage. It makes me feel good to take care of people who can’t do things for themselves. I’m just a conduit.”