A public officeholder’s attorneys may give the legal green light to certain behaviors, but conduct that is legal often doesn’t pass the “smell test,” the more common-sense approach applied by the ultimate arbiters who are voters, not lawyers.
As Friday’s Tribune reported, three Scottsdale City Council members received free tickets to the Fiesta Bowl postseason college football game in Glendale.
Councilmen Jim Lane, Bob Littlefield and Tony Nelssen each accepted two tickets (face value, $500 apiece) to the 2007 game. Littlefield and Nelssen each accepted two tickets (face value, $218.90 apiece) to this year’s game.
Legally, the council members were required to report any gifts worth $500 or more. The three reported their 2007 tickets on a city financial disclosure form and reported the 2008 seats on a declaration-of-gifts form.
In addition, Littlefield told Tribune reporter Brian Powell that he did not attend the 2007 contest as his wife was ill and Nelssen explained that he did not attend the VIP party at that game.
All quite legal. But ask a typical voter if it’s OK for a council member to receive pricey seats to the Fiesta Bowl after having voted, as Littlefield did in 2003, for the Scottsdale Waterfront project, touted at that time as the new home of the Fiesta Bowl headquarters?
Or after having voted, as all three did in 2006, for a 20-year deal between the city and the Fiesta Bowl to keep participating teams staying at Scottsdale and Paradise Valley resorts?
It’s part of being an elected official to frequently receive offers to attend high-profile, often expensive events. Yet they should either pay to go out of their own pockets or, if a genuine city interest exists — say, as a fact-finding excursion — then spending city funds could be justified and they should argue for it.
But freebies? That smells funny to a voter.
Lane, Littlefield and Nelssen should write checks from their personal funds to the Fiesta Bowl to cover the cost of their tickets.