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Ethics Panel Probes Use Of Free Warriors VIP Tickets By Oakland City Officials

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- The use of free tickets to sporting and entertainment events at the Coliseum complex by Oakland city officials is being investigated by an ethics panel, following a series of KPIX 5 reports on the practice.

Oakland's Public Ethics Commission on Wednesday opened an investigation into the city's process for distributing tickets to events such as Warriors games and concerts. Last month, KPIX 5 reports revealed a number of Oakland and Alameda County politicians regularly received free VIP tickets to premium suites at Oracle Area for Warriors playoff games – tickets which would sell for well over $1,000 each.

At least two Oakland city councilmembers received free VIP tickets to Game 2 of the NBA Finals, with a value of $10,000 apiece.

KPIX 5 Original Reports: City Officials Using Free VIP Tickets Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Three premium suites at Oracle Arena are reserved for the Coliseum Authority Board of Commissioners, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and the Oakland City Council.

The free tickets to Coliseum events are supposed to benefit the public, but some elected officials often keep them for themselves as a perk. Elected officials who use the tickets for themselves have to give a reason, often the reason given is "oversight of facility."

Among those taking advantage of the ticket giveaways: Oakland City Councilman Abel Guillen who used the VIP tickets 36 times in the last year and a half, at a face value of $76,000; and Council President Lynette McElhaney, who used the tickets 41 times in the last year and a half, face value: $125,000.

The commission will look into whether any officials violated the Oakland's ticket distribution policy, gift-limits, or gift disclosure requirements and will also determine whether the city's policies and procedures on ticket distribution are consistent with state and local law.

In an email to KPIX 5, Whitney Barazoto, Executive Director to the Public Ethics Commission, said the station's reporting on the ticket giveaway helped prompt Wednesday's action. "The information provided by KPIX, combined with information obtained by the Commission from other sources, was helpful to Commission staff's information gathering process that led to the opening of an investigation."

The Commission has the authority to imposed fines for any violation of the law and can also recommend policy changes to City Council.

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