Despite a brewing controversy over his acceptance of high-priced sporting-event tickets, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa plans to be front-and-center at the Lakers NBA finals game against the Boston Celtics Thursday night, his office confirmed.

The mayor is “attending with an outstanding student athlete from Roosevelt High School” and will meet in his official capacity as L.A.'s leader with NBA Commissioner David Stern, a mayoral spokeswoman told the Weekly. His tickets are coming courtesy of the NBA, she said. The meeting, according to Villaraigosa's reasoning, means he does not have to report the tickets to the city Ethics Commission as gifts.

Villaraigosa's sporting and entertainment tickets, some worth thousands of dollars, have raised eyebrows after Fox 11 News and then the Los Angeles Times reported that he's been accepting them without reporting them as gifts.

City rules mandate that the mayor must report gifts worth $50 or more so the public can determine who has influence at CIty Hall. Some of the mayor's Lakers tickets have come from Anschutz Entertainment Group, the company that owns Staples Center. The billionaire-controlled firm has lots of business before City Hall, and has been the beneficiary of city loan guarantees and access to land that cleared by the city in order to build Staples and AEG's adjacent L.A. Live.

In response to the controversy the mayor this week asked the City Attorney and the Ethics Commission to weigh in with official legal opinions on whether he's justified in failing to report the tickets — including more than two dozen sporting events — as gifts.

Villaraigosa often carries out ceremonial duties, such as bestowing an athlete with an official city certificate, at such events. As such, he argues that he's on-the-clock as the city's leader — much as a reporter would need valuable access to a Lakers game to cover it — and doesn't need to report the tickets as gifts.

LA Weekly