Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has been criticized for accepting free tickets to sports events and concerts. On Tuesday, the City Ethics Commission voted to ban elected officials from accepting free tickets to entertainment and other events if the donor of the ticket has business before the city.
The ethics panel said such a ban should apply even in cases in which an elected official is performing a ceremonial duty such as handing over a city proclamation.
Several months ago, Mayor Villaraigosa said he attended dozens of events for free without reporting them as gifts. The mayor argued that, under state law, the tickets were not considered gifts because he was performing an official city duty.
Records released by the mayor's office showed Villaraigosa recalled attending 85 entertainment and sporting events over his five years in office -- including 15 Dodger games, 13 Laker games, 10 other sporting events, 22 concerts and 26 awards shows.
"I've attended the vast majority of these events performing a ceremonial or public function," Mayor Villaraigosa said on Tuesday. "If the commission believes that's a situation they want to change, I can support that."
The Ethics Commission voted 4-1 in favor of the ban. It will need to vote a second time on the language before the measure is sent to the City Council.
Commissioner Nedra Jenkins cast the dissenting vote, saying officials should not have to leave an event after performing a ceremonial function.
"It makes the city look good to have the public official there,'' she said. ``I don't think there's really as much of a concern by the public of undue corruption. It's as if we believe everybody's corrupt, and I just don't believe that everybody's corrupt and everybody's subject to undue influence."
The ethics panel also said that elected officials would be able to perform a ceremonial function at events hosted by so-called "restricted sources,'' but would have to leave after the ceremonial function is completed. If they want to stay at the event, they would have to pay for a ticket themselves.