Villaraigosa attorney: Official duties include free tickets

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Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa cheers on the Los Angeles Dodgers against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game One of the NLDS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at Dodger Stadium on October 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.

A lawyer for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa asserts that the mayor doesn’t need to report free tickets to ballgames and concerts — because attending them is part of his official duties.

Villaraigosa attorney Brian Curry said the mayor’s performing his official duties anytime he attends a sporting, cultural or entertainment event — including the Academy Awards.

“When he walks the red carpet, his purpose is to emphasize to folks the importance of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles," Curry told a room full of reporters at L.A. City Hall.

The city Ethics Commission and District Attorney are looking into whether Villaraigosa violated any laws when he received free entry to nearly 100 events — including Dodgers and Lakers games, the "American Idol" finale and two Luis Miguel concerts.

In defending Villaraigosa, Curry referred to a city Ethics Commission opinion issued during the previous administration of former Mayor Jim Hahn:

"In attending these events to promote the city as a tourism and business destination, the Mayor acts not only as the City's chief executive, but also as its business ambassador and chief marketer."

Curry said Villaraigosa's mere attendance — whether or not he performs a ceremonial function — meets this standard. So, the attorneys said, those free tickets are not gifts and therefore not reportable or subject to gift limitations.

Villaraigosa's attorney conceded that the mayor’s office kept poor records on which tickets he received and from whom. He said the office would work on that.

Curry also said Villaraigosa may have to go back and pay for the free tickets his girlfriend Lu Parker may have received.

The Dodgers were most generous to Villaraigosa. The team, which regularly deals with the city on development issues — provided entry to 15 games.

Curry said the mayor's attendance was important.

“Sporting events are an important unifying force in any city and they are so in Los Angeles. People from all walks of life come and root for the Lakers and the Dodgers and USC and UCLA and the mayor thinks it’s important to go and help promote those teams — to root for the home team.”

Deputy Mayor Matt Szabo also noted that the mayor's attended many more community and "faith-based" events than glitzy affairs. He said the mayor — who enjoys public events — has gone to more than 3,000 such events.

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