This week, the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), which is refining New York’s ethics rules, found itself debating whether a cup of coffee is an item of “nominal value.”
What constitutes an item of “nominal value” can be a challenging question, especially if it is not defined by a dollar amount. A common rule of thumb in many jurisdictions, including New York, has been that “nominal value” is roughly equivalent to the cost of a cup of coffee. But, knowing where to draw the line can be a problem.
Some suggest JCOPE should define nominal value with a dollar amount, perhaps $5. An old fashioned cup of joe may be 99 cents somewhere, but a venti gingerbread latté with extra syrup is $5.35 at my local Starbucks. Perhaps a cup of coffee is not so nominal after all.