More on the ticket issue

A year later, the ticket-taking saga still lingers.

Though I was able to fit Mayor Ann Johnston and others into the story, I had very limited space to fit both sufficient background and context into the article, so many comments, including those from some council members, did not make it into the story. So here are some of them from my notebook:

• City Councilman Dale Fritchen said he couldn’t imagine asking the entire City Council to step down over accepting gifts that are legal under state law. “How could the whole City Council step down? Who would be around to run the city?”

He served on the committee that investigated the firing of Deputy City Manager Johnny Ford and noted that it, and the city’s legal staff, determined that the City Charter provision that targets conflict-of-interest issues is confusing and unclear (critics cite its statement that “officers” cannot take any “thing of value.”).

Among the gifts Fritchen reported on his annual state disclosure form earlier this year were “golf/event passes”  from the city valued at $1,000.  I asked him to be more specific, and he said he received a number of passes while on the Parks and Recreation Commission but that he never used them, but, being new to the council, he felt he should report them out of caution. “I think I just threw a figure out there. I never used them. … I had no idea what they were valued at.”

He also said he never used the $120 worth of Asparagus Festival tickets he and other City Council members received. He sent them back but reported them anyway, he said.

Of the lingering Ford fallout: “I think, especially this being an election year, there’s politics at play,” he said.

• Councilwoman Susan Eggman said she didn’t report receiving Asparagus Festival tickets on her 2009 filing because she didn’t consider them gifts and because she didn’t use them. “They don’t seem like gifts to me. I’m not going to vote a certain way,” because of them, she said. “I did not use them.” She noted that organizations such as the festival often bring these items to the council during open session and leave them with the city clerk.

Asked about former Councilman Ralph Lee White’s insistence that she and others step down (White is running for Eggman’s seat this year): “I will not step down,” she said. “I think he’s going to make this a campaign issue. The voters can decide if they feel more comfortable with my ethics or Ralph Lee White’s ethics.”

• In the meantime, the Fair Political Practices Commission on Thursday will discuss whether public officials should disclose tickets received while performing ceremonial roles. Here’s an item from investigative reporting outfit California Watch about the issue.

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