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Are Villaraigosa's appearances at Lakers, Dodger games a ‘private’ matter?

June 3, 2010 |  4:53 pm
Figuring out how Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spends his days and nights should be, seemingly, a simple task because he is so widely recognized.

Marta Vieira de Silva and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at a Lakers game. Credit: Getty Images But as with many politicians in California and across the nation, extracting detailed information about an elected official’s daily schedule rarely is an easy chore.

The recent story of Villaraigosa attending more than 80 Lakers games, Dodger games, concerts and awards shows -- many for free -- showed just how difficult that can be.
Although Villaraigosa says he was acting in his official capacity as mayor at those events, records obtained by The Times show that his own legal advisers once classified more than a third of them as “personal and/or private” -- and kept them from public view.

It all began last year when The Times requested copies of the mayor’s daily schedules under California’s Public Records Act. Although most of his meetings and events were listed, a fair number were blacked out -- and some of those “redactions" were baffling.
For example, Villaraigosa aides withheld the fact that the mayor went to the Dodgers-Chicago Cubs playoff game on Oct. 4, 2008, even though fans and news service photographers saw him at the game hugging Dodger owner Frank McCourt.
On the mayor’s schedule, they also blacked out a Lakers game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 6, 2009 -- a game in which Villaraigosa was photographed on the basketball court giving a city proclamation to Brazilian women's soccer star Marta Vieira de Silva of the Los Angeles Sol.

The mayor now says that at those events and most others he presented a city proclamation to an athlete, entertainer or event organizer, thereby making his free attendance part of his ceremonial or official duties as mayor. He said doing so exempted him from state and city laws that require politicians to report gifts they receive -- and say who gave them -- and limit the value of tickets or any other gifts they can accept to $420 from any one source in a year.

To figure which other events the mayor’s office was keeping from public view, The Times reviewed thousands of photographs from The Times, Getty Images, Reuters, the Associated Press and other news organizations.

The Times also went to the Los Angeles city clerk’s office and reviewed more than 10,000 proclamation orders from the mayor’s office, then to the City Ethics Commission to review Villaraigsoa’s financial disclosure statements from 2005-2009 as well as his campaign expenditure reports.

Finally, we compared dates on the proclamations and photographs with copies on his official calendars. The Times found that Villaraiosa failed to disclose attending eight Lakers games –– many sitting in expensive courtside seats -- and three Dodgers playoff games.

After a report by KTTV-TV Channel 11 last week about Villaraigosa sitting courtside at Lakers games, free of charge, the mayor’s office released a list of 81 sporting and cultural events that he was scheduled to attend since he took office in July 2005.
Officials in the mayor’s office are now researching Villaraigosa’s calendars, receipts and other documents to determine what “official” or ceremonial role he played at the events he was scheduled to attend. They also are trying to determine if tickets to all those events were provided free of charge -- and if so by whom -- or if the mayor or city paid for the tickets.

-- Phil Willon at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Marta Vieira de Silva and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa at a Lakers game. Credit: Getty Images