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City Officials on the A List for Free Tickets

by Larry Bush on 09/10/2012

in Paper Trails

City agencies gifted elected officials, commissioners, senior managers and selected community groups with more than $319,000 worth of tickets to San Francisco 49er games, Opera, Symphony, Ballet and various entertainments in 2011 and for the first eight months of 2012, according to documents on file with San Francisco city departments.

Four San Francisco agencies post gift disclosure reports: Recreation and Parks, the Arts Commission, the Police Department and the War Memorial.

The A List

Together the gift tickets total $319,958 for 2011 and through August 2012. The Recreation and Parks Department gave officials and selected community groups $177,832 in tickets with most for San Francisco 49ner games. The War Memorial Board ranked second with $138,135, mostly for performances of the opera, symphony and ballet. A fraction came from the Arts Commission ($3,487) and the Police Department ($504), all of which involved Chief Greg Suhr.

CitiReport compiled a complete list of all agency ticket donations, the recipient, the value and other information. The list can be viewed by clicking here.

The records show that the vast majority of tickets went to the “city family” of the mayor, supervisors and commissioners heading agencies that handed out the tickets.

Mayor Ed Lee received more than ten percent of all ticket gifts, at $35,952 for a total of 168 tickets.

The community organization that ranked at the top for gift tickets was the Chinese Chamber of Commerce that received twelve 49ner tickets valued at $2,568 for the January 22, 2012 game.

Almost half of the value of the give-aways came from the city’s Recreation and Parks Department, currently seeking voter approval for a bond measure it says is needed to make up for funding shortfalls. The agency gave away $140,000 worth of tickets during this period.

Recreation and Parks Director Phil Ginsburg received tickets valued at $2,398. The agency explained the 49ner gift tickets as “Increasing public exposure to, and awareness of, the recreational, cultural, and educational facilities available to the public” and3 for “Gathering public input on City facilities and spaces.”

Sarah Ballard, the agency’s public affairs director, received tickets valued at $856 for the same reasons.

Rec and Park Commissioners also were given tickets in order to acquaint them with the facilities available for the public. Primarily 49ner game tickets, Commissioners receiving tickets included Larry Martin ($5,754), Gloria Bonilla ($4,280), David Lee ($2,880), Tom Harrison ($798), and Paige Arata ($620),

War Memorial Trustees who received gift tickets from their agency and other agencies include: Thomas Horn ($20,006), Mrs. George Moscone ($17,345), Wilkes Bashford ($15,320), Paul Pelosi ($4,567), Claude Jarman ($6,452), Belva Davis ($4,598), and Nancy Bechtle ($2,223).

Supervisors gift totals, including for those who served for part of the period, were reported as Michela Alioto-Pier ($228), John Avalaos ($3,336), David Campos ($1,342), David Chiu ($1,312), Carmen Chu ($4,04), Malia Cohen ($1,614), Chris Daly ($228), Sean Elsbernd ($3,874), Mark Farrell ($3,066), Jane Kim ($2,798), Eric Mar ($11,980)), Sophie Maxwell ($228), Ross Mirkarimi ($2,056), Christina Olague ($668), Scott Wiener (934), Bevan Dufty ($526).

The mayor and virtually all the tickets provided to supervisors were then re-gifted by them to charities and community organizations, most of which were in their district. The tickets are valuable as a method of building relationships and good will within a district. The rule provides an exception in the case of re-gifted tickets with a value exceeding $50 so that they do not fall within the same public disclosure and reporting requirements as tickets from a nonprofit or private sector company. Those re-gifted tickets are reported as “behested payments” and publicly disclosed.

City department heads include Chief Administrative Officer Naomi Kelly ($428), Gavin Newsom ($1,710 for 15 tickets on January 2 and $428 for two tickets as Lt. Governor on January 22), DPW Director Mohammed Nuru ($642), Environmental Director Melanie Nutter ($370), Planning Director John Rahaim ($370), Controller Ben Rosenfield ($370), Treasure Island Director Mirian Saez (228), Airport Director John Martin ($2,640), and Sheriff Mike Hennessey ($1,052).

In addition, the agency provided the Rec and Park Commission $4,280, Rec and Park Department with $7,794), and the Parks Trust with $5,056).

Under state rules, local agencies are required to post disclosures of gift tickets within 30 days after they were given. The information names the recipient, the ticket’s value, the event and the date of the event.

The record deals only with tickets provided by public agencies, and does not include gift tickets from the San Francisco Giants, the owners of the 49ners or other private sector donors.

The city officials, including the mayor, supervisors, department heads and others typically escape publicly disclosing the gift tickets under a policy that deems the tickets to be part of familiarizing city leaders with the facilities available to the public.

The gift tickets are not reported to the city’s Ethics Commission and do not count as income or a reportable gift to city officials. State law caps the value of gifts officials may receive at $420. Instead each agency adopts a gift policy and then files on its own web site within 30 days of the gift.

The Recreation and Parks Department lists six categories as a basis for ticket gifts. The War Memorial Board lists 26 categories as a basis for giving tickets.

Agencies justify the free tickets under policies adopted by the commissioners, who in turn have benefitted from the rules they approved.

Criteria for Tickets

Recreation and Parks

a = Ensuring the officials are familiar with public resources available to City Residents

b = Monitoring and maintenance of public facilities available for City resident use

c = Increasing public exposure to, and awareness of, the recreational, cultural, and educational facilities available to the public

d = Raising awareness of resources available to City residents, including charitable and nonprofit organization resources

e = Gathering public input on City facilities and spaces

f = Support employee morale and reward public service *

War Memorial:

Description of Public Purposes of the War Memorial:

a. Furthering the charitable public purposes of the War Memorial under the War Memorial Trust Agreement and the San Francisco Furthering the charitable public purposes of the War Memorial under the War Memorial Trust Agreement and the San Francisco Charter.

b. Promotion of events, activities, programs and resources available at the War Memorial facilities.

c. Monitoring and evaluation of operation, maintenance and services of public facilities available for City resident and visitor use.

d. Assessing tenant, licensee and customer service needs and satisfaction.

e. Identifying or evaluating procedural and physical deficiencies in programs and facilities.

f. Facilitating increased direct contact, input from, and communication with, tenants, licensees, and event representatives.

g. Facilitating officials’ familiarity with, or ability to carry out their services or fiduciary duties \with respect to, the management, administration, and/or care of the War Memorial.

h. Increasing the understanding and appreciation of the offerings and operations of the War Memorial by City officers and employees involved in the

governance, funding, advising, management or administration of the War Memorial.

i. Providing increased exposure to, or gathering public input, on City services, facilities and spaces.

j. Increasing public familiarity with public resources, programs, and performances, available to City residents and visitors.

k. Awareness of resources available to City residents, including charitable and nonprofit organization resources.

1. Increasing use or appreciation of City-run, sponsored or supported community programs or public programs or performances held in City facilities.

m. Promotion of cultural, artistic, educational, recreational, and community activities in the City.

n. Promoting or showing City appreciation for programs and services rendered by community and other non-profit resources for the benefit of the community including artistic and cultural organizations and institutions.

o. Increasing public exposure to, and appreciation of, the recreational, cultural, and educational facilities and programs available to the public within the

p. Promotion of economic development and employment in the City and surrounding areas.

q. Supporting local businesses, including charitable organizations.

r. Increasing City tourism, including conferences, conventions, and special events.

s. Highlighting community programs within the City, including programs supported by charitable and nonprofit organizations.

t. Promoting public and private facilities, services, events and programs available for City resident and visitor use or enjoyment, including charitable and nonprofit organization facilities, services and programs.

u. Participation in exchange programs with foreign officials and representatives.

v. Furthering any other public purpose that a department or commission is required or authorized by law to pursue.

w. Any public purpose similar to those listed herein or any public purpose identified in any City contract or as may be determined by resolution of the War Memorial Board of Trustees.

x. Distribution of a ticket or pass to an official, other than an elected official or member of the legislative or governing body of the agency, for the official’s personal use, to support general employee morale,

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