View Full Version : City Council members received thousands of free tickets thanks to City Hallís policy



urbanity
07-20-2011, 09:16 AM
http://www.okgazette.com/oklahoma/article-12468-thats-the-ticket.html

urbanity
07-20-2011, 10:30 AM
Individual ticket requests and the cityís ticket policy are now uploaded at the link.

betts
07-20-2011, 11:47 AM
Considering how much money we pay our mayor and city council members and how much time they give to the city, I could care less if all nine of them receive free tickets to local events, whether they feel "duty bound" to attend or do so for other reasons.

Bill Robertson
07-20-2011, 12:17 PM
Considering how much money we pay our mayor and city council members and how much time they give to the city, I could care less if all nine of them receive free tickets to local events, whether they feel "duty bound" to attend or do so for other reasons.

Absolutely. This is a non-issue.

OKCNDN
07-20-2011, 12:27 PM
The officials may have to claim a portion of the tickets on their taxes.

A benefit received as a direct result of their employment would be taxable. The tickets may have been referred to as "free" by the article but someone is paying for them. The tickets have value that the ordinary citizen has to pay for.

I understand receiving a ticket and the ticket not being taxable since the elected or appointed official is accepting the ticket in order to fulfill their job duties with the city. But in this case the officials are receiving an additional "free" ticket for someone else, anyone else, who may or may not be an official of the city and therefore not attending events to fulfill their job duties. That puts this in a gray area.

The City Council is really cutting things close on this one.

ljbab728
07-21-2011, 12:18 AM
Absolutely. This is a non-issue.

I totally agree. It's not like they are receiving free tickets and then selling them for a profit. This is insignificant and a good example of a reporter looking for a story that isn't there.

MikeOKC
07-21-2011, 01:26 AM
I think good journalism dictates comparisons in certain situations and this is one of those times. If you're going to "expose" something like this, show us how other cities of similar size and governmental structure strictly forbid this and why (or those that do it like we do and why). From the article, it's clear the city charter seems to expressly forbid this, and things have been done to get around that. I can see possible beneficial uses of free tickets to elected officials, but I can also see some clear possibilities for conflicts of interest. But, I truly think this is a fishing expedition unless the reporter can show us that this is atypical and peers in municipal government and their related organizations have standard ethical guidelines that would call this out as unseemly. There's none of that in the Gazette article. Perspective and comparison - could you maybe follow up on that, Clifton? I love The Gazette, but this needs work, imo.

RadicalModerate
07-21-2011, 02:26 AM
The officials may have to claim a portion of the tickets on their taxes.

A benefit received as a direct result of their employment would be taxable. The tickets may have been referred to as "free" by the article but someone is paying for them. The tickets have value that the ordinary citizen has to pay for.

I understand receiving a ticket and the ticket not being taxable since the elected or appointed official is accepting the ticket in order to fulfill their job duties with the city. But in this case the officials are receiving an additional "free" ticket for someone else, anyone else, who may or may not be an official of the city and therefore not attending events to fulfill their job duties. That puts this in a gray area.

The City Council is really cutting things close on this one.

If I ever needed a tax lawyer, you would be the one.
(All that insight and wisdom expressed over a so-called "non issue" . . .)

No kidding.

In fact, there ought to be a way for those knowlegable in areas such as this to market their services as "Leveling the Playing Field Keepers"/"LegalLandscapers"

bombermwc
07-21-2011, 07:59 AM
What if they are simply used as a business perk? If your company provides you a gift of free tickets for you and your spouse to see something at Ford Center, that doesn't have to be reported...it's a gift provided by your business.

And if this is a business expense provided by the city for the council to be present at events, then again, i don't see how that would have to be reported. And the spouse attending would fall under the gift category as well.

OKCNDN
07-21-2011, 02:51 PM
What if they are simply used as a business perk? If your company provides you a gift of free tickets for you and your spouse to see something at Ford Center, that doesn't have to be reported...it's a gift provided by your business.

And if this is a business expense provided by the city for the council to be present at events, then again, i don't see how that would have to be reported. And the spouse attending would fall under the gift category as well.

Yes it does. Anything over a $25 total in value has to be reported as income.

Accepting the tickets is no big deal. But be sure to follow the IRS rules and they will be fine.

Jersey Boss
07-22-2011, 01:44 PM
I totally agree. It's not like they are receiving free tickets and then selling them for a profit. This is insignificant and a good example of a reporter looking for a story that isn't there.

You are making a leap of faith that these tickets are not sold for a profit at least some of the time.

ljbab728
07-23-2011, 12:58 AM
You are making a leap of faith that these tickets are not sold for a profit at least some of the time.

And you're making a leap of distrust for thinking that they might be. If you have some evidence to the contrary, please let us know. Otherwise I don't subscribe to those theories.

betts
07-23-2011, 07:37 AM
Has anyone tried to sell tickets for profit? It's a big pain in the neck. You have to list them somewhere....Stubhub, Craigslist. You have to read e-mails or mail tickets overnight. You need the tickets well in advance to do so. Has anyone seen Larry McAtee standing outside the Ford Center scalping tickets (for those with no sense of humor and a grand sense of outrage over any sort of politics....I am making a JOKE)? And I also seriously doubt they're selling them to their friends for face value. Why risk your reputation for $50? Don't most of us just give unused tickets to friends, employees or family for free? I suspect these tickets go unused far more than anything, which is kind of a shame, actually. I have ZERO concern that any of our city council or our mayor are selling tickets received gratis for profit.

Questor
07-23-2011, 09:18 AM
So you guys don't think it's an ethical dilemma that the group responsible for voting on funding of these various entities is being given gifts that have a market value in some cases into the hundreds of dollars?

This sort of thing really burns me up. Do you realize that, at the federal level, a contractor can't even give a government employee (including a 'peon') a free cup of coffee at an on site meeting because of the value associated with that and the possible appearance of impropriety? They have to make them pay for it. Same goes for an innocent lift in the car from point A to point B. I am sure that the city and state government have similar draconian rules. And yet politicians always seem to exempt themselves from these rules. If the above is "fine" and a "non issue" then that should be the case for everyone, not just the privileged few.

rcjunkie
07-23-2011, 05:00 PM
So you guys don't think it's an ethical dilemma that the group responsible for voting on funding of these various entities is being given gifts that have a market value in some cases into the hundreds of dollars?

This sort of thing really burns me up. Do you realize that, at the federal level, a contractor can't even give a government employee (including a 'peon') a free cup of coffee at an on site meeting because of the value associated with that and the possible appearance of impropriety? They have to make them pay for it. Same goes for an innocent lift in the car from point A to point B. I am sure that the city and state government have similar draconian rules. And yet politicians always seem to exempt themselves from these rules. If the above is "fine" and a "non issue" then that should be the case for everyone, not just the privileged few.

This presents absolutely no ethical issues or problems.
And your dead wrong re: the coffee given to a "peon" (your words), government employees can and do accept drinkable and/or ediable items that are consumed at point given, can you accept a box of steaks to take home no, can you accept a hamburger for lunch, most definately.

Larry OKC
07-24-2011, 02:45 AM
POSITIVE POST ALERT (for RC)
I don't see a problem here. It appears that the City has policies in place (the ticket must be used by the Councilor and a guest, the Councilor must attend w/the guest, the tickets can't be sold or given to someone else). Some of the Councilors stated they used the opportunity to carry out their official duties, check out facilities and operations and report what they observe back to the appropriate parties so acculades or corrective action can be taken as needed.

As long as they haven't violated City policy....

The only question I have is the City Charter says they can't do it but the official City Policy says they can. Which is the overriding provision?
From the article (for when the link no longer works)
City policy

The city charter states in Article IV, section 12 that “no officers or employee of the city, elective or appointive, shall accept or receive, directly or indirectly, from any person, firm or corporation operating within the city … using or operating under a public franchise or franchises, any frank, free ticket or free service or accept or receive, directly or indirectly, from any such person, firm or corporation any other service upon terms more favorable than is granted the public generally, or any salary, commission, compensation, or thing of value whatsoever.”

Any violation of that rule could be grounds for removal from office, according to the charter.

However, the provision goes on to state that the rule shall not “void the terms of any franchise now outstanding, or prevent the granting of franchises conditioned upon free service to the city and to its officers and employees while engaged in the performance of their official duties.”
Solely based on the reported number of tickets received by Councilors (presuming that they didn't use each ticket instance in accordance to performing their official duties), ALL of them could be removed from office (except for Shadid who received zero tickets).

As far as "selling for a profit" comment, if it doesn't cost you anything, any amount you get above what you paid is profit.

Questor
07-24-2011, 12:49 PM
This presents absolutely no ethical issues or problems.
And your dead wrong re: the coffee given to a "peon" (your words), government employees can and do accept drinkable and/or ediable items that are consumed at point given, can you accept a box of steaks to take home no, can you accept a hamburger for lunch, most definately.

You can't accept anything over $20 in value and not considered modest; you can't accept multiple gifts that within a one year period equal $50 or more, including food. The point was that the bar is much higher when it comes to government contracts then most would think, and I am positive that the gifts they are getting total much more than this. Perhaps the Feds have a much more stringent policy than what is required. perhaps they don't and OKC has a much more lax policy than they should. Pretty sure the value of things offered to the council that we're talking about here exceeds $20. Reality is that most things considered a business courtesy in the private sector might be viewed as bribes in the public sector, depending on circumstance.

rcjunkie
07-24-2011, 02:11 PM
You can't accept anything over $20 in value and not considered modest; you can't accept multiple gifts that within a one year period equal $50 or more, including food. The point was that the bar is much higher when it comes to government contracts then most would think, and I am positive that the gifts they are getting total much more than this. Perhaps the Feds have a much more stringent policy than what is required. perhaps they don't and OKC has a much more lax policy than they should. Pretty sure the value of things offered to the council that we're talking about here exceeds $20. Reality is that most things considered a business courtesy in the private sector might be viewed as bribes in the public sector, depending on circumstance.

Retired from the City of OKC with 28 plus years, was in managment 25 plus years, attended annual meetings on this issue. The accepting of meals, drinks and in this case for the Mayor and Council ickets, is legal and a NON-ISSUE.

Edgar
07-24-2011, 02:55 PM
what, the mayor didn't use any of the tix to the Civc center- philistine

MikeOKC
07-24-2011, 05:32 PM
Retired from the City of OKC with 28 plus years, was in managment 25 plus years, attended annual meetings on this issue. The accepting of meals, drinks and in this case for the Mayor and Council ickets, is legal and a NON-ISSUE.

Finally, we know from RC why the city can do no wrong.

rcjunkie
07-24-2011, 07:04 PM
Finally, we know from RC why the city can do no wrong.

Don't you ever get tired of being misinformed. The City has done wrong and will continue to do, however, this is one instance where they have not, it's a dead issue.

rcjunkie
07-24-2011, 07:04 PM
POSITIVE POST ALERT (for RC)
I don't see a problem here. It appears that the City has policies in place (the ticket must be used by the Councilor and a guest, the Councilor must attend w/the guest, the tickets can't be sold or given to someone else). Some of the Councilors stated they used the opportunity to carry out their official duties, check out facilities and operations and report what they observe back to the appropriate parties so acculades or corrective action can be taken as needed.

As long as they haven't violated City policy....

The only question I have is the City Charter says they can't do it but the official City Policy says they can. Which is the overriding provision?
From the article (for when the link no longer works)
City policy

Solely based on the reported number of tickets received by Councilors (presuming that they didn't use each ticket instance in accordance to performing their official duties), ALL of them could be removed from office (except for Shadid who received zero tickets).

As far as "selling for a profit" comment, if it doesn't cost you anything, any amount you get above what you paid is profit.

Your making me proud Larry Boy!!

MikeOKC
07-24-2011, 07:06 PM
Don't you ever get tired of being misinformed. The City has done wrong and will continue to do, however, this is one instance where they have not, it's a dead issue.

Do you really think my idea of compare and contrast with other cities is such a bad idea?

rcjunkie
07-24-2011, 07:09 PM
Do you really think my idea of compare and contrast with other cities is such a bad idea?

Every City has rules, laws, guidelines and by-laws, just because a City does something a certain way doesn't mean it's right or wrong or that OKC has to.

bombermwc
07-25-2011, 08:03 AM
Um, you know if you are given season tickets by someone like the Redhawks, you don't have to pay any tax or report it.....In fact, that point was recently brought up very prominently by an MLB team when a player threw a ball back rather than keeping it. The team gave him season tickets. Since it was a gift and not compensation for returning the ball (read it however you want) it was decided that he did not have to report it....right from the IRS' mouth. So if you want to consider this a gift, there ya go. If you want to consider it something else, let the IRS make the decision. Although I have a feeling that if it was seen as something to be taxed, that in the last 50 years or whatever, we probably would have seen something happen....and would have counted on the local news to "Report" it.