Anaheim Violates Its Own Ticket Policy, Abuses Continue After Weekly Exposé

Do we have any “volunteers” for free tickets? Illustration by Felipe Flores

Anaheim’s decade-old policy governing the distribution of Angel Stadium and Honda Center event tickets by city officials couldn’t be more clearer. After they’re given out, disclosure forms are to be posted on the city’s website within 30 days. Following a Weekly cover story exposé on abuses of the ticket system, such postings seemingly froze.

By the end of August, a search of 802 forms revealed they stopped on July 20. Either council members and other city officials stopped distributing tickets altogether or the city had violated its own policy. When the city finally got around to posting new disclosure forms earlier this month, the update revealed that the prescribed time frame had lapsed on the distribution of several tickets by Anaheim city council members.

“On rare occasion, it’s possible to have posts in the days after the monthly close but still within the Fair Political Practices Commission’s 45-day requirement,” says Mike Lyster, city spokesman. “While never our goal, that might be because of the large volume we’re processing or technical or staffing issues. Our goal is to meet our policy, which we do on a regular basis.”

Anaheim City Council swiftly passed the ticket policy drawn up by former city attorney Cristina Talley’s office a decade ago on Jan. 27, 2009 without so much as even a discussion on it.

Back then, councilwoman Lucille Kring thought the issue to be no big deal in the lead up to FPPC rule changes that prompted the policy. “Until the press gets involved, I don’t think people care,” she told the OC Register in 2008. “If I say I gave (tickets) to Joe Blow, people will say, who is Joe Blow?” The city also refused a Register reporter and a photographer access to the one of its suites perched behind home plate saying that it was “full.”

Anaheim’s ticket system has a longer history than that flap. When the Register did a county-wide tally on gifts to public officials in 1990, it noted that even if a total ban on private sector gifts happened, Anaheim city council members would still enjoy six free tickets to every Angels and Rams game. The FPPC has since changed its laws to require state agencies adopt ticket policies and post disclosure forms online but problems persist.

A long overdue council discussion of Anaheim’s ticket policy may soon be coming. After the Weekly‘s cover story, councilman Jose F. Moreno requested to agendize a review during an August 13 meeting, although deeming it not “time urgent” but rather an  opportunity to “clarify things for folks.” His request got support from councilwoman Denise Barnes and councilman Jordan Brandman.

Such a discussion won’t be taking place at this evening’s meeting. In the meantime, the delayed batch of disclosure forms shows that the ticket system still functions very much like a form of political patronage.

Anaheim First members Amelia Castro and Linda Newby both received suite tickets to Angels games from Anaheim First-supporting council members. Mayor Harry Sidhu and council member Trevor O’Neil gave the Anaheim Police Association suite tickets to an Angel game under the nonprofit exemption; the APA endorsed both candidates during the 2018 election.

Moreno provided Backstreet Boys concert tickets last month to the wife of Anaheim Union High School District trustee Al Jabbar, a staunch political ally of the councilman, under the volunteer exception.

On July 29, the councilman also assigned eight suite tickets worth $1,800 total under his name for an Angels game against the Detroit Tigers. That single game alone bested Moreno’s previous ticket taking total of $1,399 as reviewed in Ticket Masters between July 2018 and June 2019. The only other council member to have assigned that many suite tickets under their name in reviewed forms? Former councilwoman Kris Murray in 2018.

There’s no way for the public to know who’s on the guest list when council members take tickets for themselves or give them to politically-connected associates; only the assigned name is documented. When asked about the Angels game, Moreno didn’t clarify matters much. “My wife and I had friends visiting from out of state who we went to graduate school with,” he wrote in response. “They were in town visiting so I asked a council colleague if they would allow me to group our respective tickets. As this was personal use, I reported the tickets under my name.”

There’s also nothing in the ticket policy that allows for council members to group their ticket allotments with or without documentation. When asked for a comment on the admitted practice, the city shrugged it off.

“We have a busy day on tap with council,” says Lyster. “We don’t have any additional comment beyond what’s been provided.”

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