No Official Function, No Free Ticket

November 29, 2012

In a city filled with many world class entertainment venues, such as Madison Square Garden, Radio City Musical Hall, Yankee Stadium, CitiField, Broadway theaters, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the National Tennis Center and the brand new Barclays Center, tickets for City officials just became harder to come by.  Lobbyists and NYC public servants should now be reflecting on a newly published Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) advisory opinion. COIB opines that a public servant may not accept a free ticket to a sports or other entertainment event absent: (1) a clear and direct nexus between the recipient-public servant’s official duties and the nature or location of the event; and (2) the public servant must in fact perform some official function at the event.  Similarly, a lobbyist may not give a ticket to a public servant unless these same two criteria are met. Query 1: while joining in singing of the national anthem is unlikely to satisfy the second criterion, might that standard be satisfied by inviting the public servant to be the featured singer? Query 2: does the opinion portend a more influential role for lobbyists, who arrange for public servants to perform an official function at an entertainment event in the course of donating a free ticket? The opinion does not reference potential sanctions.  These include civil penalties of up to $25,000, potential removal from office, and criminal prosecution for a misdemeanor for public servants receiving prohibited gifts.  Lobbyist-donors who commit multiple offenses are subject to civil penalties of up to $30,000 and also face the possibility of criminal prosecution.

Tag: New York City