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4 L.A. councilmen fined $13,300 for taking free tickets to Hollywood events

April 8, 2011 | 10:53 am

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Four members of the Los Angeles City Council have agreed to pay a combined $13,300 in fines for receiving free tickets to various Hollywood award shows and dinners over the last four years, according to agreements reached with the city's Ethics Commission.

In separate deals that come up for a vote Tuesday, Councilmen Tony Cardenas, Eric Garcetti, Jose Huizar and Herb Wesson will admit they violated a city law that prohibits them from accepting gifts of more than $100 a year from "restricted sources" -- individuals and groups that have business pending before the city.

The financial penalties are the first to surface since state officials announced last week that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had agreed to pay state and city regulators a fine of nearly $42,000 over his acceptance of tickets to 34 separate events, including Los Angeles Lakers games, Los Angeles Dodgers games and concerts featuring such performers as Shakira and the Spice Girls.

That fine, issued in tandem with the Ethics Commission, was considered to be the largest of its kind for the state's Fair Political Practices Commission, according to that agency's executive director. The commission is scheduled to vote Monday on its share of the fine.

Of the four fines negotiated with L.A. council members, the largest will be received by Garcetti, who agreed to pay $4,800. He accepted free entry to the Governors Ball that accompanied the Academy Awards and Primetime Emmy Awards in 2007, the same year that his father was a member of the Ethics Commission. He also took tickets to the 2008 Academy Awards ceremony and Governors Ball -- but attempted to pay $700 of that ticket's value two years later, according to a report prepared on the fine.

Although Garcetti faced a maximum penalty of $15,000, Ethics Commission investigators offered a reduced amount, noting that the councilman said he misunderstood the city's gift laws as they related to award shows. He also believed he was paying the "full value" of the gifts at the time he received them, the Ethics Commission's report said.

Garcetti, who represents part of Hollywood, said in a statement that he thought the $1,800 he paid in 2007 covered not just the Academy Awards and Emmy Awards but the Governors balls that were held afterward.

"While I paid the full cost of the award show tickets, I messed up when it came to the dinners afterward," he said. "That's my mistake and I'm personally paying for the cost of these three dinners to clear it up."

The next largest fine was issued to Wesson, who reached an agreement to pay $3,900 over his receipt of four free tickets to each of the BET Awards shows held in 2007, 2008 and 2009 at the Shrine Auditorium.

Cardenas agreed to pay $2,500 over his acceptance of two free tickets to the 2008 Emmy Awards, gifts that have a value of $1,300 each, according to the Ethics Commission. Huizar's lawyers agreed to pay $2,100 for taking two Academy Awards tickets.

Fines also have been proposed for the donors of the tickets, including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has lobbied the city in recent years over a development project in Hollywood and a plan to lease nine parking garages. That organization has reached an agreement to pay a $13,250 penalty.

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences is set to pay $7,900. Black Entertainment Television Networks, which stages the BET Awards, is scheduled to pay a $3,900 fine. Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns Staples Center and the Nokia Theatre, has agreed to pay the city $799.

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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Left photo: Councilman Tony Cardenas. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Second from left photo: Councilman Eric Garcetti. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Second from right photo: Councilman Jose Huizar. Credit: Kirk McCoy / Los Angeles Times

Right photo: Councilman Herb Wesson. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times

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