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4 L.A. councilmen face $13,300 in fines over free tickets to Hollywood events

They will admit violating a city law that prohibits them from accepting gifts of more than $100 a year from individuals and groups that have business before the city.

April 09, 2011|By David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times
  • Left to right: Los Angeles city councilmen Tony Cardenas, Eric Garcetti, Jose Huizar and Herb Wesson, were fined more than $13,000 total for taking free tickets to Hollywood events. Credit: Los Angeles Times
Left to right: Los Angeles city councilmen Tony Cardenas, Eric Garcetti,…

Four members of the Los Angeles City Council have agreed to pay a combined $13,300 in fines for taking free tickets to Hollywood award shows and dinners over the last four years, according to agreements reached with the city's Ethics Commission.

In separate deals, Councilmen Tony Cardenas, Eric Garcetti, Jose Huizar and Herb Wesson will admit they violated a city law that prohibits them from accepting gifts of more than $100 a year from individuals and groups that have business before the city.

The proposed financial penalties are the first to surface since state officials announced last week that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had agreed to pay state and city regulators nearly $42,000 in fines for accepting tickets to 34 separate events, including Los Angeles Dodgers games and concerts featuring such performers as Shakira and the Spice Girls.

Garcetti agreed to pay $4,800 covering three events over two years. He accepted free entry to the Governors Ball that accompanied the Academy Awards and the Primetime Emmy Awards in 2007, the same year his father was a member of the Ethics Commission.

Garcetti also took tickets to the 2008 Academy Awards ceremony and Governors Ball — but attempted to cover the cost two years later by paying $700, according to a report prepared on the fine.

Although Garcetti faced a maximum penalty of $15,000, Ethics Commission investigators offered a reduced amount, noting the councilman said he misunderstood the city's gift laws as they related to award shows. He also believed he was paying the "full value" of the gifts at the time he received them, the Ethics Commission's report states.

Garcetti, who represents part of Hollywood, said in a statement that he thought the $1,800 he paid in 2007 covered the two awards shows and their accompanying galas. "While I paid the full cost of the award show tickets, I messed up when it came to the dinners afterward," he said.

Wesson agreed to pay $3,900 for taking four tickets to the BET Awards shows in 2007, 2008 and 2009 at the Shrine Auditorium.

Wesson said he never attended the BET events, and gave the tickets to his niece from Ohio. "If I didn't file [the paperwork] properly, of course I'll pay it," he said.

Cardenas agreed to pay $2,500 for taking two tickets to the 2008 Emmy Awards while Huizar's lawyers agreed to pay $2,100 for taking two Academy Awards tickets.

Fines also have been proposed for the donors of the tickets, including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which has lobbied the city in recent years over a development project in Hollywood and a plan to lease nine parking garages. That organization has reached an agreement to pay a $13,250 penalty.

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences is set to pay $7,900. Black Entertainment Television Networks, which stages the BET Awards, is scheduled to pay a $3,900 fine. Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns Staples Center and the Nokia Theatre, has agreed to pay the city $799.

The focus on tickets came into full view last year after Villaraigosa confirmed that he had attended at least 85 sports and cultural events free of charge. The mayor said he did not violate state laws regulating gifts to politicians because he was performing official or ceremonial duties at the time.

david.zahniser@latimes.com

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