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Ethics panel approves fines for Villaraigosa, 4 council members and 5 entertainment entities over free tickets

April 12, 2011 | 12:53 pm

The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to hand down a little more than $68,000 in fines to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, four City Council members and five businesses and entertainment groups over the practice of giving or receiving free event tickets.

Villaraigosa paid the most, agreeing to accept nearly $21,000 in city fines over his appearance at concerts, awards shows and athletic contests. Councilmembers Tony Cardenas, Eric Garcetti, Jose Huizar and Herb Wesson were fined a combined $13,300 for taking free tickets to Hollywood awards shows and accompanying dinners.

When combined with a state penalty approved earlier this week, the total fines stemming from the investigation into freebies -- triggered by news reports in The Times and KTTV Fox 11 -- exceeded $88,000. Many of the fines involved violations of a city law that bars politicians from receiving gifts worth more than $100 from individuals or businesses that have matters pending before City Hall.

Villaraigosa has created three legal defense funds in response to inquiries over free tickets. That leaves open the possibility that special interests will provide donations to help the mayor pay off his fines and legal bills.

The size of the mayor’s fine dismayed Los Angeles resident George Rheault, who criticized the commission for failing to explain why Villaraigosa was being fined for some events and not others. Rheault told commissioners that the fines should have been larger, since some of the donors of the tickets have benefited from city decisions.

“The mayor got a token wrist slap, and he doesn’t even have to pay out of his own pocket for these things,” Rheault said after the meeting. “I don’t understand why anyone, including the Ethics Commission, thinks this is sufficient.”

Deputy Mayor Sarah Sheahan said the mayor had cooperated fully with the investigation. “We appreciate the commission’s determination that these [violations] were unintentional and made in good faith,” she said in a statement.

Here are the fines approved Tuesday:

$20,849 -- Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (does not include a related $21,000 state fine)

$13,250 -- Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Oscars)

$8,300 -- National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (Grammys)

$7,900 -- Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (Emmys)

$4,800 -- Council President Eric Garcetti

$3,900 -- Black Entertainment Television Networks (BET Awards)

$3,900 -- Councilman Herb Wesson

$2,500 -- Councilman Tony Cardenas

$2,100 -- Councilman Jose Huizar

$799 -- Anschutz Entertainment Group (Staples Center, Nokia Theatre)

TOTAL $68,298


Villaraigosa's free-tickets fine made official by state ethics commission

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall