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Villaraigosa accepts free ticket to Lakers-Celtics game, says it is not a gift under law

Antonio Villaraigosa, Jeffrey KatzenbergLos Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he has accepted a free ticket to Thursday night's Lakers-Celtics championship playoff game because the city’s top official has the right to “root for the home team.” He said he intends to meet with NBA Commissioner David Stern, so the event constitutes official business that doesn’t require him to treat the tickets as “gifts” that would have to be reported under law.

"I am going to the Lakers game tonight," Villaraigosa said. "And I've made it very clear, as I understand the rules and regulations, it is not a reportable gift when I am in an official capacity. I will be going tonight in an official capacity."

The mayor also said that if the city Ethics Commission sees anything improper in his having accepted free passes to as many as 81 other sporting, concert and awards-show events since becoming mayor in 2005, he would reimburse the ticket donors.

"If the commission, after reviewing those documents, determines that there are any that are not sustainable then I will certainly reimburse."

The Times reported last week that since taking office in 2005, Villaraigosa has sat courtside next to movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg at three Lakers games at Staples Center. He has cheered alongside Tommy Lasorda and Dodgers owner Frank McCourt in the owner's box at Dodger Stadium. He has also attended the Academy Awards, the Grammys, the Emmys and the BET Awards.

Villaraigosa acknowledged this week that he goes to some of them free of charge. He said he considers those appearances to be part of his official duty to promote and represent Los Angeles.

State and city laws require politicians to report gifts they receive — and say who gave them — and limit the value of tickets they can accept up to $420 from any one source in a year. Elected officials are exempt from those requirements, however, if they conduct official business or have a "ceremonial" role at an event.

Villaraigosa has taken a more expansive view of that exception than his predecessor: Former Mayor James K. Hahn publicly reported tickets he received to similar sporting events and award shows, including the Academy Awards, the Grammys, a Rose Bowl game, Dodgers and Angels games, a Lakers game and a UCLA- USC football game.

When Hahn went to the 2003 Oscars, he paid $400 out of his own pocket and declared only a portion of the total ticket value — $100 — as a gift, his financial disclosure reports show.

A spokeswoman for the mayor said last week he's in "full compliance with all applicable laws and regulations." At some events, the mayor's official duties include the presentation of a decorative city proclamation that he presents to athletes, entertainers or organizers.

-- Phil Willon at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks with producer Jeffrey Katzenberg at a Lakers playoff game. (Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press / May 2, 2010)

Comments () | Archives (88)

If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck its a duck and free tickets

Come on Tony, you can't act official in your own office. This gig is for your personal and financial benefit and nothing more. If you were truly thinking of the people of LA, you would have stepped down during your first term. Is it so hard to be moral and honest while in office? You could be the one who breaks the mold of sleazy politicians.

And you all keep giving him the photo-op...ignore him like he does his job....

I'd be appalled if Villaraigosa WASN'T at the game. These are the Lakers!!

What Offical Business does the Mayor have at a Laker Game?

This guy is a fraud!

Apples & Oranges, A gift is a gift no matter how he wants to muddy the water and distort the true facts! He is just like an Illegal alien, looking for a handout and a free ride. What a discrace and tarnish on LA.

Recall this man. Besides being about as bright as a box of hair weave, he is devoid of morals and ethics.

Yeah, right.

Will the Mayor be well received by the crowd? Or booed loudly?

Another selfish, greedy politician that I will NEVER vote for again.

What about the Clippers? Did he go to even one Clipper game??

Did anyone ever check Villaraigosa's green card status?

What a pile...

I'm sure I'm not the only one who smells how ripe it is...


What a bunch of bull.

Villain-goes-uh:. If it's for an official capacity, then I'd rather you sit behind the desk and solve the mess you created than sitting at a ball game trying to be a celebrity.

So let's be clear. He was already an Assemblyman and has been Mayor of LA for how long? And he still isn't clear on what the law is regarding gifts? I think his behavior speaks for itself.

This man is beyond comprehension! That old feeling of entitlement is all too strong in this man!

Do you really expect this scumbag politician who cheats on his wife for years, lies to the Council and regards the taxpayers as his personal cash cow to actually behave in a moral manner.

What a non news story.

what a pig!

Why does he have to meet with NBA Commissioner David Stern anyway? To discuss how LA can't afford another championship parade for the Lakers? What a joke of a Mayor we have.

This kind of stuff pisses off the public not just because he goes to these events for free, but because HE DOESN'T DESERVE THE PERK!!!! This man hasn't done squat and yet he makes up "proclamation" excuses to snag court side seats at a Laker game????? I can't wait 'til this man is out of office!!!! Lord Have Mercy!!!!

@Unbiased: " And he still isn't clear on what the law is regarding gifts?"

Don't blame him....he failed the bar exam only four times.

Why can't he just watch the game from home like most of us?

The mayor should try to improve the City's bond rating instead of going to watch the Lakers game. He's disgusting!

If the mayor paid out of his own pocket, this would be a non-issue. But he loves to spend other people's money or receive "gifts" as long as it does not cost him a dime.

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