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by Fern Shen11:53 amFeb 27, 20240

Asked about CIAA tickets offered to Mayor Scott’s office, Ethics Board advises against taking them

After running into foul trouble with a $30,000 purchase of tickets to the 2023 basketball tournament, Baltimore’s mayor steers clear of controversy this year

Above: Mayor Brandon Scott joins a Youth Sports Clinic, part of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association CIAA Tournament being held in Baltimore this week. (@MayorBMScott)

Mayor Brandon Scott kicked off the CIAA Tournament in Baltimore over the weekend by delivering a pep talk to the event’s Youth Sports Clinic.

It’s not clear whether Scott will be attending any of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association games being held this week at the CFG Bank Arena as part of the annual tournament.

But there’s one thing Scott won’t be doing:

Accepting a lucrative gift offered to him by Visit Baltimore and the Arena – a free “bunker suite” that included 16 tickets.

Last month, Scott’s office disclosed the ticket-and-suite offer to the Baltimore Ethics Board, seeking guidance.

On February 14, the board voted unanimously to advise against accepting the package.

“There is black letter law that would not be in favor of acceptance of the tickets,” Ethics Director J. Christoph Amberger told board members, referencing the precedent of a past board ruling.

“The board determined that sports events are separate from cultural events,” Amberger said. “If the elected official will not be performing a function connected with constituent services, it is more likely that a free ticket for admission to a sporting event is offered solely by virtue of the official’s prestige of office.”

He noted that the Arena, as a tenant in the city-owned building, is a “controlled donor,” and that “someone under the jurisdiction of the city ethics laws is not permitted to receive a financial benefit for himself or for another” from such a donor.

Voting “no” after a brief discussion were the four members present for the virtual meeting: Chairman Stephan W. Fogleman, Arnold Sampson, Noelle W. Newman and John McCauley.

Scott’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the ethics guidance or his plans to attend the CIAA this year.

January 11 meeting Baltimore Ethics Board.

The Ethics Board meeting in January included Natasha Edmonds, Mayor Scott’s executive assistant (bottom left).

Last Year’s Ticket Purchase

The board’s decision reflected the trouble Scott ran into last year after it was reported that his office purchased $30,000 worth of CIAA tickets.

The package included more than 50 tickets for the men’s and women’s games as well as admission to two concerts at Rams Head Live and a CIAA Fan Fest at the Baltimore Convention Center.

After the Baltimore Sun obtained an invoice for the purchase, Scott’s office said it struck a new deal with CIAA to sell the tickets at a special “early bird” rate of $7,420.

Scott’s then-spokesman, Cirilo R. Manego III, said that both city staffers and community organizations received many of the tickets.

Visit Baltimore also stepped into trouble when it offered free CIAA tickets to each City Council member last year.

Amberger informed Council members that accepting tickets from a controlled donor like Visit Baltimore would violate ethics rules, which prohibit lawmakers from accepting a gift worth $20 or more from such donors.

(Visit Baltimore ultimately did not dispense the tickets to Council members, the Sun reported.)

Discussing last year’s controversy, Amberger noted that the 2023 tournament was the first to take place following the city’s completion of a two-year contract extension with the CIAA tournament.

“If memory serves right, it was a very rushed situation in which a large contingent of tickets was offered to the mayor’s office for distribution,” he said.

Board Chair Fogleman told members how he thought the mayor’s office could resolve the problem in the future.

He pointed out that, unlike the situation at the Ravens and Orioles stadiums, the CIAA does not have a set-aside box at the Arena for city officials.

By designating such a city box, Fogleman suggested, the ethics hurdle could be surmounted.

“There’s ways we can make this so we never have to talk about this again because it’ll be part of the lease, and not our province anymore,” he mused.

“Maybe that’ll happen in the future.”

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