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Ethics Commission votes to ban officials from taking free tickets from those seeking city business

The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission voted Tuesday to propose that high-level officials be barred from receiving free entry to concerts, sports events and other cultural activities if the donor of the ticket has business pending before the city.

On a 4-1 vote, the panel said such a ban should apply even in cases in which an elected official, city commissioner or high-level manager is performing a ceremonial duty, such as handing over a city proclamation.
               
The action comes three months after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa confirmed that he has attended dozens of events for free without reporting them as gifts -- or keeping track of the official city business performed at those events. Villaraigosa said that under state law, the tickets were not considered gifts because he was performing an official city duty, usually presenting someone with a city proclamation.

Commissioner Nedra Jenkins, an appointee of former City Controller Laura Chick, cast the lone vote against the proposal, saying elected officials make the city look good by performing official duties at awards shows, film festivals and other events.
               
“It’s as if we believe everybody’s corrupt, and I just don’t think everybody’s corrupt and everybody’s subject to undue influence,” she said.
The commission will need to vote a second time on the specific language to be included in an ordinance. Then the measure would head to the City Council for a vote before going into effect.
          
Since he took office in 2005, Villaraigosa has received free entry to games and concerts from companies seeking a specific decision from the city, including the Los Angeles Dodgers and Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns Staples Center and L.A. Live. AEG has sought approval of tax breaks and new billboards in recent years, while the owners of the Dodgers have met with city officials over development plans, shuttle buses and the route for the Los Angeles Marathon.
               
Stephen J. Kaufman, an attorney for the mayor, had no comment after the vote, but Jenkins said she did not like the idea of a high-level official having to exit an event abruptly to avoid having to pay. “I don’t think the public is sitting in their living room saying, I’m upset that my public official is attending the Oscars,” she added.

Commissioner Valerie Vanaman had a different take, saying companies with business before City Hall could exert “undue influence” by providing free entry to pricey events. Vanaman said elected officials would still be allowed to perform a ceremonial city duty but should pay their way if they intend to enjoy the entire event.

“I don’t think there is any benefit that we get as a city by having them in the audience,” she said.

In recent years, the mayor has gone for free to the Oscars, which is sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. That group has been in talks with various city officials -- including the mayor’s office -- over a proposed development project in Hollywood. The group also has weighed in repeatedly on the city’s plan for leasing 10 city-owned parking garages, which is part of Villaraigosa’s effort to raise revenue and avoid considerably deeper budget cuts.
               
The Ethics Commission also voted to seek an ordinance requiring high-level officials to disclose the free tickets they receive from businesses or individuals that do not have business pending before them. And the commissioners voted 4-1, with Jenkins opposed, to bar gifts of any amount from companies that do business with the city.
               
Any changes to the city’s ethics law require approval from the City Council, which has shown a great reluctance to pass new measures backed by the panel. For the last 12 months, the council has declined to take up a measure from the commission that is designed to eliminate loopholes in its lobbying ordinance.

Even as commissioners sought to ban high-level officials from accepting gifts from companies that do business with the city, they also voted 4-1 to recommend a provision that gives some leeway to officials who did not know that the source of the gift had a contract or another matter pending before a city agency.

Commissioner Marlene Canter opposed that provision, calling it a loophole that would make enforcement of the gift ban more difficult. "If we keep it at zero, it’s just a lot better for the people who are involved,” said Canter, a former school board member.

Commission President Helen Zukin disagreed, saying the provision would provide “some element of reasonableness” to the city’s gift laws.

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall
 
Comments () | Archives (22)

Everybody is not corrupt, just elected officials

Two items:

"It’s as if we believe everybody’s corrupt, and I just don’t think everybody’s corrupt and everybody’s subject to undue influence....”

Any changes to the city’s ethics law require approval from the City Council, which has shown a great reluctance to pass new measures backed by the panel.

What ethics?

“...I don’t think the public is sitting in their living room saying, I’m upset that my public official is attending the Oscars"

Oh, but that's where you're wrong, Missy! We want our public officials doing ACTUAL WORK on behalf of the City, not handing out stupid proclamations and making speeches to crowds who just want their event to begin!

Let them watch the Oscars on television like the rest of us. LA is now a third world cesspool, with a myriad of real issues, and VivaLaMecha has time to be galavanting all over the place in search of a camera flash bulb? I think not. The public is not as stupid as you seem to believe we are.

It won't take city officials long to navigate around this new policy. The LAPD has a working relationship with the Los Angeles Dodgers but still accepts gratuities such as Dodger tickets if they are first given to the Los Angeles Police Protective League and then distributed to LAPD personnel.

My mother always said it just takes one to spoil it for all the rest. Although I do think Ms. Jenkins has a point not everyone is as corrupt as Tony Villar.

“I don’t think the public is sitting in their living room saying, I’m upset that my public official is attending the Oscars,” she added. Hello? YES THEY ARE SAYING JUST THAT. Let them pay $4000 for a ticket or watch on TV like everyone else. The mayor is a civil servant, not the king.

If it wasn't corruption, then why was he also accepting free tickets for his daughter and girlfriend?

Who Cares!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Actually I am among the public sitting in my living room who does not want to see the Mayor in a $3K suit sitting at the Oscars for 3 hours and undoubtedly attending a party or two afterward while everyone I know is losing a job and social services are severed to shreds. If perception means something - and we know this mayor knows PR well - then do your business and go home. Or give your front row seats to a Laker game to a young boy or girl who won't have a chance in hell to be that close in their lifetime.

No free anything, ever, period.

What part of "no" don't elected people understand. You can cover things up by saying it was business for the city and the law lets me do it; but the real answer is something else.

Again, nothing, ever, never, period.

The Lakers are one of the most famous sport franchises in the world. There is absolutely nothing this crooked mayor can claim as an advangtage to the city for being there. The Lakers and LA don't need him there for any reason whatsoever.

Seems to me, with the cheating and lying, Slick Tony has the self-control of a child.

i hate the police officers ride the train for free....

They are corrupt to the bone, and the suckers and chumps(citizens) continue to pay for all the freebee.

Why does this have to be a new rule. Bribery is illegal. Accepting a bribe is illegal. The Mayor accepted bribes and then tried to cover it up by not reporting it. Now the commission pretends the law is not enough. If the Attorney General was not just another politician seeking higher office the Mayor would be facing a trial. Politics LA style seems as dirty as those in Chicago.

I've been on jury trials where people were tried for writing bad checks in small amounts or stealing a bottle or two from a liquor store. These are the people who are put in jails but never any politician from LA. The laws as enforced are unfair and designed to punish the weak and helpless. Shame on the legal system that can find myriad ways of protecting the rich and powerful. And fire this Laura Chick appointee and send her to an ethics class to relearn the basics of right and wrong our parents taught us.

Oh no - how ever will LIE-wicki get his evil overlord's bidding done now that officials can't stay for games?

It takes a commission to tell "officials" that their behavior must be ethical and unbiased. Try that one on the U.S. Congress.

“It’s as if we believe everybody’s corrupt, and I just don’t think everybody’s corrupt and everybody’s subject to undue influence,” she said. Gee, I wonder who would think that.....based on our elected elite -- EVERYONE!

Years ago (lots of years) the City's traffic officers were allowed to attend part of the Dodger games if they were working the event. That meant escorting the patrons in before the event and escorting all the drunk out afterwards. Then the City decided that being allowed to sit in the cheap seats and actually watch part of the game was a gratuity and banned it. So much for some small compensation for being the targets for the drunks when the "boys in blue" blew the series each year. Since people actually performing a valuable service can't gain even a modicum of fun, WHY SHOULD HIS HIGHNESS THE MAYOR!

If the goal is to halt influemce peddling have the elected officials buy their own tickets. There should no formal or informal ways in which a person or company/corporation gets an edge over another, period.

There is no question it is unethical, regardless of any phony preceived benefit by the atendee. The only one who benefits is the politician attending for free. If it appears unethical, it is unethical.

If the poor have to pay, the Rich have to pay. Thats all I have to say about that.


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