No Action on Controversial Ticket Policy

SF Mayor's request to review a free ticket policy has been ignored.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee in February said he would ask the City Attorney to review a policy that allows public officials to receive free tickets to professional sporting events, but so far no such actions have been taken.

The mayor said he would ask for the review after our report on free tickets to 49ers games given to San Francisco leaders last month.

Mayor Ed Lee is trying to explain why the City Attorney has apparently ignored his request to review the policy.

“In that interview you called for the City Attorney to conduct a full review. Has that happened?” NBC Bay Area Chief Investigative Reporter Tony Kovaleski asked San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.

“I think they are still in the process,” the mayor responded.

San Francisco’s mayor believes the review he requested is underway. It’s a review of the city’s program handing out hundreds of free 49ers tickets every season.

Back in February, Supervisor John Avalos explained how the policy works for him: “I get an envelope every year that has tickets for every game and parking passes for the home games,” he told NBC Bay Area. “That’s what every supervisor gets.”

Our investigation questioned free tickets going to San Francisco’s most powerful city leaders, including free tickets for the mayor and the Board of Supervisors.

“The NFC Championship game, you decided to pay for your ticket, why?” Kovaleski asked Board of Supervisors President David Chiu last month.

“It just felt like the right thing to do,” Chiu said. “It was a personal decision.”

We uncovered an interesting contrast: some supervisors turned down the free tickets and paid their way to see the games, while others gave the free tickets to family members.

“It smells if you will,” Kovaleski told Supervisor Avalos last month. “How do you take criticism that you got free tickets to give away to your mother-in-law?”

“It could be a valid concern,” Avalos responded.

“Did she have a public purpose for being there? “ Kovaleski asked.

“Did she have a public purpose for being there?” Avalos paused. “No, she had a personal purpose for being there.”

Mayor Lee stepped in. On Jan. 31, he called for a closer look.

“That will be the first question I ask the City Attorney when I get back to the office,” Mayor Lee told NBC Bay Area. “Let’s take a look at this and see if there are any problems.

Now, six weeks later, NBC Bay Area has learned that nothing has happened.

Emails to the mayor’s Communications Director and San Francisco City Attorney have confirmed that no review of the city’s ticket program has been conducted and none is currently underway.

“What they told us is there is no review.” Kovaleski told Mayor Lee. “Is that what you wanted? “

“No,” the mayor said. “I’ll ask as to why. It may not be a priority.”

It may not have been a priority, but that is changing, apparently.

“Even though nothing has happened in the past six weeks, you still stand behind what you said. You want a full review?” Kovaleski asked the mayor.

“I would like a full review, just to make sure there is no question we are handling this properly,” the mayor responded.

Communications with the City Attorney’s office and the mayor’s Office of Communications have made it clear that no review of the free ticket program followed the mayor’s request back in January.

By all indications the mayor’s statements to us were nothing more than lip service.

We will follow up on his latest promise for a review of those free tickets to 49ers games.

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