A delightful #jaxpol subplot has been the continuing controversy over what gifts are acceptable outlays from the Jacksonville Jaguars to Jacksonville’s City Council members and members of the executive branch.
Even as Jacksonville public officials wrestle over the seemingly inevitable $45 million capital outlay on the latest round of stadium improvements, with THREE more committees giving it the inevitable Yes vote in the next twenty-four hours, the Jaguars’ lobbyist had an interesting email exchange with General Counsel Jason Gabriel and Ethics Director Carla Miller.
Gabriel laid out acceptable gifts and conditions thereof in an email last week.
Tickets for the legislative branch had to be accepted by the Council President or his designee; for the executive branch, the mayor or his designee.
The gifts must be posted within 90 days on the city’s gift registry.
“The value of the tickets or passes need to be identified for state reporting purposes. The value of the ticket or passes shall be identified on the ticket or passes at the time of donation by the Jaguars to the City,” wrote Gabriel.
“If any officer or employee who received a ticket or pass as a gift from the City happens to be a state ethics form filer (elected officials and specified appointed employees and officials), they will be required to report such gifts from the City on their quarterly gift form filing (CE Form 9) with the State,” Gabriel added.
Harden, as is his wont, sought a workaround.
“I assume this does not apply to tixs/passes of a value less than $100 as such items are allowable by law.”
Not so fast. Carla Miller jumped in.
“I would also add that although officials and employees can technically/legally accept gifts from lobbyists and vendors under $100, it would be a better practice if they were accepted by the City and then disbursed.”
Local law stipulates, said Miller, “that our officials/employees cannot accept an aggregate of over $250 in gifts per year per lobbyist/vendor.”
“So for example, one yacht party: $100; one lunch, $50, it starts to add up. If the tickets for an event are given to the City, they don’t count toward the $250 max amount,” Miller added.
Harden, despite being given a mechanism to circumvent the spirit of the law, wasn’t satisfied, and did a li’l mansplaining to Ms. Miller.
“With all due respect I am making an inquiry to Jason about his legal opinion,” Harden wrote.
If the Jags had that kind of defense on the field, and not in City Hall, they might be in control of the AFC South right now. Luckily for them, the real scoreboard for Shad Khan’s team is not the big one in the stadium for the rubes, but the one on the ledger sheet.
Update: It seems the genesis of this conflict may have stemmed, most proximately, from an email from Miller last weekend:
It has now been confirmed in our meeting yesterday that there are 74 “City” tickets per the lease for each Jaguars game and not the 64 as reflected in the City game attendance spreadsheets.
64 of these tickets have been distributed and accounted for by the City, and there are 10 that have been accounted for and distributed to City Council members by the Jaguars.
Since all 74 belong to the City, all 74 will now be handled by the City. I will instruct any officials who have received packages from the Jaguars for future games to return them.
I will also be advising City officials to not accept any “suite passes” for the owner’s suite until a new policy is developed on their use, if any.
As also discussed, General Counsel and I will work on a new unified policy for tickets. Perhaps there will need to be revisions to the lease or new local ethics laws.
And that is why when Jason and I develop a proposed policy, we will not only be sending it to the Jaguars for review, I will be taking it to the Ethics Commission for review and for public comment.
The 74 tickets ultimately belong to the people of Jacksonville. They should have a say in how they are distributed.