It turns out that John Schwada's reports for Fox 11 last week on Mayor Villaraigosa getting free, unreported tickets to Lakers games and other events got on the air just ahead of an L.A. Times investigation. The Times piece by Phil Willon ran Saturday and said — based on examinations of the mayor's schedule for 2008 on 09, "thousands of photographs" and "roughly 10,000 proclamation orders from the mayor's office" — that "Villaraigosa acknowledged this week that he goes to some of them [events] free of charge." Not exactly a sharp conclusion after a lengthy reporting job. The story points out that predecessor James Hahn did things differently, and that rules block Villaraigosa from accepting most freebies, but the best stuff is pretty far down in the piece:
On July 13, Villaraigosa's companion, KTLA reporter Lu Parker, sent out a tweet announcing that she was attending a Beyonce concert that night at Staples Center. It was the same day Villaraigosa announced that the city would not bill Staples' owner, Anschutz Entertainment Group, for the cost of city services provided at the arena's Michael Jackson memorial.
Hours after a mayor's spokesperson told a Times reporter that Villaraigosa was not attending the Beyonce concert, the mayor's office put in a rush order for a proclamation for the singer, to be presented by Villaraigosa in person that night. The certificate recognized her "international success and contributions to the entertainment industry."
The only ticket to an awards show, concert or sporting event that Villaraigosa reported as a gift was in 2006, when he attended the Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood as a guest of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He declared receipt of a $100 "ticket discount."
Every year thereafter, Villaraigosa has attended the event without reporting his tickets as a gift.
For the last five years combined, the total value of the four tickets he received to the Oscar ceremony and Governor's Balls is $21,000, according to academy spokeswoman Leslie Unger.
The Beyonce proclamation meant that Villaraigosa could claim he was at the concert on official business. If he's getting anything free from AEG, which as a company is the very definition of "has business pending at City Hall," Villaraigosa could be in some deep doodoo. Reaction from Villaraigosa critics has been vocal. Ron Kaye took a break from recruiting City Council candidates to rail that "King Antonio is the biggest crook in town. Jill Stewart at the LA Weekly took a media critic line, blogging that Willon "deserves far better, for the tremendous effort he put in, than to be undermined by his editors' choice of publication dates; story placement...and bad editing that buried the key findings." Commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson said he would call on Tuesday for Ethics Commission President Helen Zukin "to launch a fast track sweeping probe" into the ticket allegations.