Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets freebie flap spreads to city hall

No more season tickets from public cash, Katz promises

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Mayor Sam Katz has pledged to stop using taxpayer funds to buy season tickets to Winnipeg sporting events after his office spent close to $29,000 on Jets, Bombers and Goldeyes tickets last year.

Katz's office has four season tickets to the Winnipeg Jets, the Winnipeg Blue Bomber and the Winnipeg Goldeyes -- something Katz said has been done by his mayoral office and previous mayors for years.

On Wednesday, Katz vowed to end the practice and no longer will purchase season tickets to sporting and any other cultural or other events. Katz said his office did not renew the Jets tickets for 2012 and will return the 2012 Bomber season tickets already purchased. Katz's staff confirmed his office spent $24,704 on Jets season tickets, $2,160 on Bomber season tickets and $2,064 on Goldeyes season tickets for the 2011 season.

Katz said the tickets were distributed to organizations and some elected officials.

"I've decided it's time to stop, period," Katz said, following Wednesday morning's executive policy committee meeting. "There will be no more tickets of any kind purchased or distributed."

Last month, Katz defended the practice as a way to support local teams and charities after publicly posted expense reports revealed his office spent more than $2,000 of its taxpayer-supported budget on two pairs of season tickets to the Bombers in 2012. At the time, Katz told the Free Press "it's a phenomenal opportunity" to invite a visiting mayor to a game and the tickets can help charities raise thousands of dollars.

On Wednesday, Katz said he still supports all three sports teams and has his own personal season tickets. However, he said in light of the Selinger government's ticket crackdown, he's decided to "keep it simple" and stop buying tickets with his office's taxpayer-supported budget.

"The realities are maybe what happened in the past shouldn't continue in the future," he said.

At the same time, six members of city council have declared they received free Jets tickets.

Last week, council Speaker and governance committee chairman Coun. Grant Nordman sent members of council an email to remind them of existing rules surrounding sporting-event tickets and the current gift-disclosure policy. Currently, councillors have to declare gifts worth more than $250 to the city clerk's office.

Clerk's office records show since Nordman's email was sent on May 11, six members of council declared they have received Jets tickets.

Couns. Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) and Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan) both received tickets from Canad Inns. Couns. Russ Wyatt (Transcona), Brian Mayes (St. Vital), Scott Fielding (St. James) and Dan Vandal (St. Boniface) all received tickets from the mayor. Councillors said these were the mayor's personal tickets, not those purchased by the mayor's office.

Fielding also received tickets from accounting firm Meyers Norris Penny.

Browaty said he does not think accepting tickets from a private business has any influence over his decisions. He said he has previously declared participating in a golf tournament and a gala ticket he received, both of which were worth more than $250.

"It's a good place to talk business, whether it's at a dinner or a hockey game," Browaty said. "I don't think myself or any of my colleagues would be influenced to make a decision any certain way due to hockey tickets being involved."

Havixbeck said Canad Inns asked her if she was interested in attending a Jets game and she accepted. She said councillors are often invited to a variety of functions, and it's important to show support.

Last week, Katz called for a city policy to govern whether councillors can accept free tickets in light of a provincial crackdown. He said council's governance committee will continue to work to develop a policy for members of council.

Who got what

COUNCILLORS are required to disclose gifts worth upwards of $250. Here's a breakdown of who has now owned up to accepting free Jets tickets since councillors were reminded of the policy last week:

Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan):

Total number of tickets: 4 tickets to two games

From: Canad Inns

Coun. Paula Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo)

Total number of tickets: 3

From: Canad Inns

Coun. Scott Fielding (St. James)

Total number of tickets: 4 tickets to two games

From: Two tickets from Meyers Norris Penny, two tickets from Mayor Sam Katz

Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital)

Total number of tickets: 2 to a Jan. 21 game

From: Mayor Sam Katz. Mayes estimated the pair was worth $320.

Coun. Russ Wyatt (Transcona)

Total number of tickets: 3

From: Mayor Sam Katz

Coun. Dan Vandal (St. Boniface)

Total number of tickets: 4

From: Mayor Sam Katz

-- source: City of Winnipeg clerk's records

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 17, 2012 A4

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