Did Free Staples Center Tickets Inspire L.A. City Leaders To Spend $3.2 Million Of Your Money On Michael Jackson's Memorial?
A court filing seeks "declaratory and injunctive relief" for taxpayers regarding the city of Los Angeles' expenses for the Michael Jackson memorial last summer, alleging that city officials who received free tickets from Staples Center's owner looked the other way when it came to public costs for the show there.
The complaint, filed on behalf of city resident Jose Freddie Vallejos this week, "seeks reimbursement of $3.2 million dollars from the Estate of Michael Jackson" and names Staples' owner, Anshutz Entertainment Group, as an additional defendant. The city of L.A. is named as a "party of interest."
The complaint, obtained by the Weekly, claims that the cozy relationship between AEG and city officials led to the city covering taxpayers' costs for the July 7 memorial at Staples Center, which amounted to nearly $3.2 million but really encompassed about $2 million -- mostly in police costs -- over what the city would have normally paid to staff the Staples area on a regular day.
AEG has already declared that it is giving the city a $1 million dollar "donation" for L.A.'s portion of putting on the show that day.
According to the filing:
Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that Defendant AEG Live did, in fact, give to certain City officials hereinafter [unnamed defendants], tickets to sporting and concert events worth many thousands of dollars ... Plaintiff is informed and believes and thereon alleges that the Estate and AEG Live, as a direct and consequential result of their illegal gifts and bribes made to [the unnamed defendants], did not pay for or paid less than the actual expenses incurred by the City with regard to the various funeral and memorial services held by the Estate.
The complaint appears to be referring to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's controversial acceptance of tens of thousands of dollars worth of sports and entertainment tickets since he took office in 2005. AEG was the giver of at least some of those tickets. It's not clear who else the filing is referring to.
The filing also alleges that AEG and the Jackson estate profited from the memorial that day. The actual show had AEG hand out more than 17,000 tickets for free. However, the company does have a stake in Jackson's legacy and shared in some of the revenues from the Jackson concert film This Is It, so publicity about the entertainer's life might have been good for business.
"Defendants AEG Live and the Estate have made in excess of one billion dollars from the sales and promotions related to the funeral and memorial services," the filing claims.
A hearing in the matter has not yet been scheduled.
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