An honorarium is any payment made in exchange for rendering a service or activity that is not part of your official duties. Examples include: delivering a speech, writing or publishing an article, or participating in a public or private conference, convention, meeting, or similar event.
An honorarium may also include payment or reimbursement of expenses for travel, lodging, or meal(s) related to the service performed.
A request for approval of an honorarium must be submitted in writing to your agency's Ethics Officer or his or her designated approving authority before performing the service or activity. Statewide elected officials and State agency heads (including civil department heads) must submit an honorarium approval request to JCOPE.
Who is covered under the honoraria rules?
A “covered person” includes:
- statewide elected officials;
- Officers and employees of New York State agencies (including departments, boards, bureaus, divisions, commissions, and councils) (*other than unpaid and per diem officers of those entities); and
- Members, directors, and employees of New York State public authorities and public benefit corporations (*other than unpaid and per diem members and directors of those entities).
¬ Unpaid and per diem officers are excluded from Public Officers Law § 73; however, they are still bound by the conflict of interest rules found in Public Officers Law § 74.
Restrictions on honoraria
- State personnel, equipment, and time cannot be used in preparing the service for which an honorarium is offered.
- State funds cannot be used to pay the covered person’s attendance, registration, travel, lodging, or meal expenses.
- If the service is to be performed during the covered person’s official work day, he or she must charge accrued leave (other than sick leave) to perform such service.
- If the honorarium is offered by or on behalf of an interested source, it may only be accepted if it is unreasonable to infer that the honorarium was intended or expected to influence the covered person, or was intended as a reward.
- The Ethics Officer/approving authority must determine that the offeror is not being used to conceal that the honorarium is actually offered or paid by an interested source.
- Acceptance of an honorarium must not create even the appearance of a conflict of interest – in violation of Public Officers Law § 74 (the Code of Ethics).
All faculty members of SUNY and CUNY (except SUNY community colleges) and State officers and employees with certain titles (research scientist; cancer research scientist; research physician; research psychiatrist; psychiatrist) are exempt from the Honorarium approval procedures (including the conditions for approval), provided that the service performed is within the subject matter of their official academic or research discipline.
Reporting honoraria for FDS Filers
State officers and employees who are required to file a financial disclosure statement ("FDS") – even those who are exempt from the honorarium approval requirements – are obligated to report any honorarium in excess of $1,000 (or all honoraria, the total of which exceed $1,000 received from a single offeror) in his or her FDS for the applicable year.
Special Rule for members of the Legislature and legislative employees
Generally, members of the State Legislature and legislative employees cannot ask for—or receive—an honorarium while they hold that public office or employment.
The exception to this rule occurs when payment is made for a speech unrelated to the State officer or employee’s public duties, or is income earned for personal services typically provided in connection with a legitimate business, trade, or profession—unless giving speeches is the main responsibility for someone in that occupation or profession (in which case the exception does not apply).
Honoraria Regulations (19 NYCRR Part 930) and Honorarium Approval Request Form
State officers and employees, and statewide elected officials, are required to request and receive approval from their Approving Authority before accepting an honorarium (when allowed by statute and as that term is defined in 19 NYCRR Part 930 of JCOPE regulations).
Contact The JCOPE Attorney of the Day
The Commission administers an "Attorney of the Day" program to help provide State officials and employees, lobbyists, and clients of lobbyists with free, confidential advice, both formal and informal, on navigating the State's ethics and lobbying laws.