Oakland, California Mayor Libby Schaaf and Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney have been accused of violating the city’s ethics rules by attending Golden State Warriors’ games for free.
An investigator with the city’s Ethics Commission found that the two women have been helping themselves to free tickets for not only the Warriors, but a slew of other top-selling events, The Mercury News reports. In 2016, it was noted by several media outlets that city officials snatched free Warriors tickets, including playoff games.
Between January 2015 and September 2016, Gibson McElhaney reportedly claimed $320,000 in free tickets, including four seats to the seventh game in the NBA Finals, which rounded out to $40,000. While she claimed she was attending the games for “official city business,” she was accompanied by family members. Additionally, Schaaf took 18 sets of tickets valued at $54,000, the report states.
According to city rules, Gibson McElhaney only had to fill out forms stating that her attendance was a part of her “official duties,” without any other proof. An ethics commission staffer excused the behavior, however, the former ethics commissioner Stephen Shefler said it was clear that Gibson McElhaney was taking advantage of the perk by the lack of notes or reports.
Both Gibson McElhaney and Schaaf are in the clear after filling out required city forms.
“It’s that the report affirms what we said all along, that we did not do anything wrong,” Gibson McElhaney said.
“[Gibson McElhaney] felt that as the Mayor she is expected to have a certain minimal awareness of Oakland sports teams and their facilities, so she tried to go to at least one game a year for each team,” Schaaf added.
Earlier this year, the Alameda County Civil Grand Jury noted that while officials claim to go to these events for business reasons, there is no documentation for what they did at the event.
“If real inspections were conducted, one would expect some reporting of findings and recommendations, but multiple witnesses told us that written inspection reports have never been prepared by officials attending events, and that seldom do officials even make oral reports about facility conditions,” grand jurors wrote.
These elected and appointed officials can attend as many events as they would like, as long as they complete paperwork, or have the option of giving the tickets to non-profits, schools, staff members, and people in the community. While Justin Berton, a spokesman for Schaaf, said that they mayor’s office regularly donates the tickets, the commission has called for the city to change the way they distribute tickets.
“The Public Ethics Commission firmly believes the city’s policy must change,” the commission’s executive director Whitney Barazoto said in an email. Barazoto is reportedly pushing for the council to take up a new policy in October.