The city of Oakland’s ethics commission determined on Friday that the mayor and a city councilwoman did not violate the city’s ethics rules after using more than 90 free tickets to Golden State Warriors games valued at more than $370,000.
Mayor Libby Schaff and councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney used multiple game tickets, including tickets to playoff games, between January 2015 and September 2016, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The investigation found that Schaff used 18 tickets worth $54,000 during that timespan, and McElhaney used 73 tickets worth $320,000. Per the report, the tickets included NBA Finals games worth $10,000 each.
Officials, under the city’s policy, can use tickets if they are doing so for a “governmental purpose.” All they need to do is fill out a form stating their business.
While the commission did not find Schaff and McElhaney in violation, it did conclude that officials “use an ineffective system for tracking tickets to games and concerts,” and that city officials treat these free tickets as a “perk of the office.”
That commission has recommended a new policy, however that new policy must be approved by the city council — many of whom were the ones misusing the tickets in the first place.
Stephen Shefler, a former chief assistant U.S. attorney in California, served on the commission from 2015 to 2017, and told the San Francisco Chronicle that it doesn’t matter if officials claim a governmental purpose when using the tickets, but rather if they are actually accomplishing that purpose. He said that nobody “seems to have produced any reports following their facility oversight.”
And, Shefler told the San Francisco Chronicle, it’s “inconceivable” that McElhaney needed 73 games to achieve her governmental purpose, which includes job training and creation.
“There’s no reason to believe anything on job training would be going on during a nationally televised game with all that excitement,” Shefler told the San Francisco Chronicle.
McElhaney defended her ticket use on Friday, too, saying that she did nothing wrong and that it’s not the top priority in her district.
“It’s that the report affirms what we said all along, that we did not do anything wrong,” McElhaney told the Mercury News.
“My constituents are not crying out for this.”
The commission will hold its final meeting on Tuesday night, where it will determine if it accepts the recommendations and close the cases.
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