Unofficial Opinion 98-14
Local school system employee suggestion programs do not violate the constitutional prohibition against gratuities.
You have requested my opinion regarding whether a local school system’s employee suggestion program would violate the prohibition in the Georgia Constitution against gratuities. Of course, my office cannot review the specific provisions of a particular county’s program. The individual county attorney should review the proposed program in order to determine whether it complies with the applicable law. However, in principle, school system employee suggestion programs would not violate the constitutional prohibition against gratuities.
Article III, Section VI, Paragraph VI(a) of the Georgia Constitution provides as follows:
Except as otherwise provided in the Constitution, (1) the General Assembly shall not have the power to grant any donation or gratuity or to forgive any debt or obligation owing to the public, and (2) the General Assembly shall not grant or authorize extra compensation to any public officer, agent, or contractor after the service has been rendered or the contract entered into.
As you point out in your request, employee suggestion programs have previously been analyzed by this office and found not to violate the gratuity provision quoted above. See 1971 Op. Att’y Gen. 71-183. That opinion points out that employee suggestion programs compensate an employee in addition to his agreed upon salary “only after the suggestion has been made and after it has been shown that the suggestion would result in increased efficiency or cost savings to the State.” Id. at p. 252. Therefore, the State is not giving something away; it is merely compensating an employee for an idea that the State believes is valuable. The same rationale would apply to an employee suggestion program run by a local school system. Therefore, it is my opinion that local school system employee suggestion programs do not, in principle, violate the constitutional prohibition against gratuities.
KATHRYN L. ALLEN
Senior Assistant Attorney General