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Mayor Villaraigosa agrees to pay $42,000 ethics fine for accepting free tickets in violation of reporting laws

April 01, 2011|By David Zahniser | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has agreed to pay nearly $42,000 in fines to resolve state and city investigations into his practice of accepting tickets to sports events, concerts and pricey entertainment activities without reporting them as gifts, officials said Friday.

In a pact drafted by officials with the state Fair Political Practices Commission and the city Ethics Commission, Villaraigosa admitted that he failed to report free tickets to 34 events during his first five years in office, including Los Angeles Lakers games and concerts at such venues as Gibson Amphitheater.

Villaraigosa faced a maximum fine of more than $167,000 but was offered a smaller amount because investigators concluded that his violations were unintentional and that he made a "good faith" attempt to comply with the law, according to the agreement.

Villaraigosa highlighted those comments but insisted that he was "fully accountable" for his actions. "It is my responsibility to make sure I act in strict compliance with the applicable rules," he said in a one-page statement. Last year, Villaraigosa estimated that he went to at least 85 events at such venues as Staples Center, Dodger Stadium, L.A. Live and elsewhere during his first five years in office without paying for a ticket. He repeatedly asserted that his acceptance of those tickets did not violate state law because he was performing official or ceremonial city duties at the time.

The agreement with the mayor still must be approved by the FPPC and the Ethics Commission. Robert Stern, president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies, described the fine as "a significant amount of money" and predicted that it would serve as a warning to other politicians.

"I think this will draw enough attention to [the law] that other officials will be very careful about the events they go to, and make sure that they're complying with the regulations," Stern said.

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