Oakland Ethics Commission Recommends New Limits on Sports Tickets
A recent ethics investigation has cleared Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney of wrongdoing for the use of more than $370,000 in free Golden State Warriors tickets. But the entire saga has left a bad taste in the mouths of government transparency watchdogs, and now the Public Ethics Commission is proposing changes to the policies that allowed it to happen.
Under the proposed changes, council members could only attend five games per year and would have to obtain the tickets in advance after outlining the reasons why. The new policy is aimed at overhauling a system that one former ethics commissioner calls “an invitation to abuse.”
Between January 2015 and September 2016, Schaaf and McElhaney used a combined 91 Warriors tickets (18 for Schaaf and 73 for the councilwoman) free of charge. These included NBA Finals tickets worth $10,000 each.
The officials claimed they attended the games for official government reasons, including “oversight of facilities.” Former Ethics Commission member Stephen Shefler doubts that but, because they filled out the proper paperwork, they are effecitvely in the clear.
Still, the Commission did conclude that officials “use an ineffective system for tracking tickets to games and concerts,” and that the tickets have become a “perk of the office.”
The question now is whether council members will limit their own access to sports games.