SACRAMENTO — California's ethics watchdog agency opened an investigation Friday into the California State Athletic Commission, in connection with free admission to big-ticket events that board members obtained for themselves, relatives, friends and associates.
The investigation was announced after The Times reported that commissioners, who oversee boxing and mixed martial arts, requested the free passes from promoters whom they license and regulate. Requests were made to admit more than 50 people in the last year and a half who did not work for the board; most of the guests were friends and associates of the commissioners.
Most of the free access was not reported to the California Fair Political Practices Commission, an ethics agency that can fine high-ranking officials who violate state law that requires gifts to be disclosed and not to exceed annual limits.
"Based on the information in The Times' article, the [Fair Political Practices] Commission will be investigating the activities of the athletic commission," said Roman Porter, the ethics agency's executive director.
Matt David, a spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said in a statement, "We fully support their investigation and will demand compliance with their findings."
Erin Shaw, a spokeswoman for the athletic commission, said she had "nothing further" to add to the statement from the governor's office.
Those invited to events free included actor Sylvester Stallone, who is a friend of Commission Chairman Timothy Noonan; John Cruz, a high-ranking aide to Schwarzenegger; one commissioner's pastor; and other friends and relatives of the panel's members.
Schwarzenegger and his son sat next to Stallone at a January fight for which tickets cost up to $300. Six of the seven part-time commissioners were appointed by the governor.
Some commissioners disclosed free admissions after The Times inquired about their practices in July, though they said Thursday they'd already been in the process of doing so. They also reimbursed promoters so they would not exceed state gift-acceptance limits, but they did so well after the 30-day legal window for such action. The governor made a similar payment last month.