Whether Yaroslavsky paid for 2004 Super Bowl tickets in dispute
By all accounts, County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky used his position as a Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum commissioner to score a pair of prized tickets to the 2004 Super Bowl.
But did he pay for them? That is a matter of sharp dispute.
A spokesman said the supervisor paid $750 in cash for them, without a record of the transaction, and gave them to a constituent he would not identify.
But two people who said they provided Yaroslavsky with Super Bowl tickets insist he got them for free and requested them for his own use.
State law generally requires elected officials to report gifts of tickets on public disclosure forms. Yaroslavsky did not report the tickets.
Yaroslavsky's receipt of the 2004 tickets came to light through Times inquiries involving the corruption scandal at the Coliseum, which has resulted in the indictments of three former stadium officials and three people who did business with the publicly owned venue.
Yaroslavsky's spokesman, Joel Bellman, said the supervisor first approached the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission, a nonprofit group that promotes the city's stadiums.
Bellman said Yaroslavsky made it clear to the group that he did not want the tickets for his own use as a Coliseum representative but was getting them for a constituent.
Kathryn Schloessman, president of the group, told The Times that her organization gave Yaroslavsky the 2004 tickets for free, believing he would attend the game to lobby NFL executives to return professional football to the Coliseum.
The venue lost its last franchise in the mid-1990s.
Contrary to Schloessman's statement, Yaroslavsky's spokesman said the group turned down the supervisor's request and did not give him the tickets.
Bellman said Yaroslavsky then reached out to Patrick Lynch, the Coliseum's general manager at the time. As a Coliseum commissioner, Yaroslavsky was one of Lynch's bosses.
Lynch, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to an unrelated conflict-of-interest charge in the corruption case, gave Yaroslavsky two tickets to a Super Bowl for his personal use at the Coliseum's expense, said Lynch's attorney.
Lynch could not remember whether it was the Houston game between the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots, but he never took money from Yaroslavsky for the tickets in 2004 or any other year, said the attorney, Tony Capozzola.
Bellman, however, said Yaroslavsky paid the $750 to Lynch for the tickets and gave them to the constituent, whom he would not identify because "he's a private citizen."
Asked why Yaroslavsky paid his subordinate cash rather than write him a check, Bellman said, "He paid cash at Pat's request. Pat didn't want a check."
Bellman said Yaroslavsky got a single free ticket from the Coliseum to each of the Super Bowls from 1999 through 2002 and attended the games with other commissioners as part of their push to lure an NFL team to the stadium.
A $750 pair of tickets to the Houston game would have been a bargain. The face value of the 2004 tickets ranged from $400 to $600 each, an NFL spokesman said. Resale brokers fetched prices of several thousands of dollars a pair, according to news reports.
Yaroslavsky, who recently ended months of speculation by announcing he would not run for mayor, has served since 1995 on the Coliseum Commission, a joint authority of the city, county and state.
Lynch managed the landmark stadium and companion Sports Arena for 17 years. He resigned in February 2011, shortly after the first Times report on financial irregularities involving the Coliseum's events manager and a concert promoter.
Last December, The Times reported that county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas used his post on the Coliseum panel to get a $560 pair of regular season Panthers tickets at the public's expense and did not disclose them as a gift.
After The Times obtained Coliseum records about the purchase, Ridley-Thomas reimbursed the agency -- two years after he received the tickets, officials said.
Good-government advocates say politicians should never use their office to land tickets and other perks unless there is a clear public benefit.
"Public officials are public servants, and they should be serving and representing their constituents, and not using their office to get perks like tickets to sporting events," said Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who studies public corruption.
-- Paul Pringle and Rong-Gong Lin II
Photo: Los Angeles County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky, left, and Mark Ridley-Thomas with a Tyrannosaurus rex from the Natural History Museum at the opening of the Exposition Park Expo Line Station in April 2012. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times