Los Angeles mayor to pay record fine over free tickets

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has agreed to pay a fine of $42,000 for accepting free tickets to shows and sports events such as Lakers games, in the largest ethics-related fine a California agency has ever imposed.

Villaraigosa took tickets to more than 30 events in the five years after he became mayor in 2005, according to documents released on Friday by the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

Those included Los Angeles Lakers basketball and Dodgers baseball games, the Academy Awards, a 2009 “American Idol” finale and a Spice Girls concert, the Fair Political Practices Commission said.

The agency’s executive director Roman Porter said this is the largest ethics-related fine it has ever imposed, but it has administered bigger fines for campaign finance violations.

The nearly $42,000 fine breaks down as a $21,000 penalty from the Fair Political Practices Commission and $20,849 from the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission.

Villaraigosa should have reported the tickets as gifts, according to the Fair Political Practices Commission.

The City Ethics Commission also found he erred by taking free tickets from companies and organizations that had business with the city, such as Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG).

AEG has a stake in the Los Angeles Lakers, and it owns Staples Center where the team plays and where numerous concerts are held throughout the year.

“The FPPC and Ethics Commission recognized that supporting entertainment, sports, and other cultural events is an important governmental function, and something our city’s mayor should do,” Villaraigosa said in a statement.

“I will continue to attend these events and have taken the necessary steps to ensure full compliance in the future.”

The Fair Political Practices Commission allows politicians to pay their fines with their own money or campaign donations.

A spokeswoman for Villaraigosa said he opened a legal defense fund on Friday to cover expenses related to tickets.

The fine must still be approved by the Fair Political Practices Commission when it meets on April 11, and by the City Ethics Commission when it meets the next day.

Villaraigosa was elected mayor of Los Angeles in 2005, becoming the city’s first Latino mayor since the 19th century. He was reelected in 2009.

(Editing by Greg McCune)

Los Angeles mayor to pay record fine over free tickets