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L.A. City Council drops push for increase in gift limit

After criticism over ethics, the L.A. City Council decides to leave the limit on gifts elected officials can receive at $100 a year.

December 11, 2013|By David Zahniser

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday abandoned its plan for hiking the limit on gifts that can be accepted by elected and other high-level officials, opting to leave the amount unchanged.

Council members came under fire two months ago for instructing City Atty. Mike Feuer to draft a law allowing those with financial interests at City Hall, such as contractors and bidders on construction projects, to give gifts of up to $150 per year, an increase from the current $100 limit.

A committee headed by council President Herb Wesson originally inserted the gift-limit increase into a package of proposed ethics-rule changes. Asked Wednesday why he had discarded the increase, Wesson said: "It wasn't worth the blow back."

The city's Ethics Commission had originally recommended a ban on such gifts, one that would allow for limited exceptions, such as the distribution of free coffee and bottled water at meetings. Ethics Commission President Paul Turner said he was disappointed that his panel's proposal had been rejected.

Turner said the commission's proposal would have provided clarity for policy makers while reducing public cynicism about government.

"Unfortunately, this type of action — not agreeing to a ban on gifts — undermines that confidence," he said.

Turner portrayed the commission's proposal as a natural extension of existing law, which prohibits lobbyists from providing gifts to elected city officials.

Under the proposed changes, lawmakers and other high-level officials will continue to be allowed to accept gifts of up to $440 per year from entities that do not have business before them. The Ethics Commission had not recommended a change to that particular rule.

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