Gifts for council members

There is no reason whatsoever for Los Angeles City Council members to be entitled to receive gifts from people or companies that do business with the city.

In August, the Los Angeles Ethics Commission recommended a ban on gifts from those with a financial interest in the city. Currently, lobbyists registered with the city cannot give gifts to council members, but politicians can receive gifts valued at up to $100 from people doing business with the city.

Curiously, the recommendation to ban those $100 “to promote confidence in city decisions,” turned into an increase to $150 in the hands of the Council. Council President Herb Wesson rationalized this action by saying that he couldn’t imagine that any council member “would sell their souls for $150.”

True. With an annual salary of $178,000, council members will not be bought for $150, but that is not the point.

The question is why it should be acceptable for council members to receive gifts of tickets to sporting events, concerts, and other entertainment from people and companies that have or are competing for municipal contracts. Surely, if the council members did not hold those offices, they would not receive such gifts. This represents a clear conflict of interest.

Wesson’s comment, and his attempt to increase the limit on the gifts they can receive reveals a concerning disconnect between the lawmakers who believe they are entitled to be entertained by contractors and the people who look on impassive, unable to do a thing.

It is unacceptable for the Ethics Commission’s recommendation to be ignored and for the City Council to try to do the opposite of its suggestion to cut gifts to politicians.

Given the circumstances, the proposal to raise the limit on gifts to council members is an insult to Angelinos.