D.A. investigating mayor's free event tickets

LOS ANGELES A citizens' group complained that the mayor was getting countless freebies and not reporting them as gifts.

Officials from the mayor's office said /*Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa*/'s staff is digging through boxes of material from his five years in office.

The L.A. County District Attorney's Office and the city's Ethics Commission are also looking into the matter.

Villaraigosa Thursday turned over records of the events he attended for free. The L.A. District Attorney's Office is investigating whether the mayor should have reported the tickets as gifts.

Responding to two investigations, Villaraigosa Thursday released a list of 85 events he has attended free. Some of the freebies would have cost the general public hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. The records are incomplete. But the mayor and his attorney say everything has been legal.

Villaraigosa and his girlfriend have walked the red carpet together many times. And whether it's the Oscars or Emmys, the tickets are free. Villaraigosa says it's OK because he's the mayor and it's official business.

That includes Lakers championships, even if he sits on the sidelines with mega-producer Jeffrey Katzenberg.

"I stand by the idea that the mayor of Los Angeles is duty-bound to stand up for an industry, to stand up for the home team," said Villaraigosa.

And protect himself during an investigation by the District Attorney and the Ethics Commission regarding his use of freebies.

Villaraigosa's attorney Brian Curry and other legal experts faced a table full of reporters to explain the law and what they found. They also handed out a CD with hundreds of pages of documents with explanations of what the mayor did. And in most cases, who supplied the tickets. They admit record-keeping needs to be improved.

"The state regulations provide that free tickets and passes given to an official are not gifts as defined by the regulations, and therefore they're not reportable under the gift-reporting laws," said Curry.

And the mayor says everything he does as mayor is in his official capacity. Is there a question of conflict of interest with places like the Staples Center and its owners, AEG? Or others doing business with the city?

The mayor firmly denied there was a potential conflict.

And then there are the free tickets given to the mayor for his family and his girlfriend.

"As I understand the rules and regulations of the city, they're included too," said Villaraigosa.

The mayor and his attorneys are quick to point out that along with the 85 free concerts, Lakers games and awards shows attended by the mayor, there were also many community events. The mayor attended more than 3,000 community and faith-based events. No tickets required.

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