The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

January 13, 2009
Avocado commission's forbidden fruit: baseball & hockey tickets

If it skates like a Duck and hits like an Angel, should taxpayers pay for it?

Apparently not, according to the scorching audit of $2 million in questionable spending by the state avocado commission that surfaced late last week.

One of the more intriguing nuggets uncovered by California Department of Food and Agriculture auditors is a whopping $123,227 the commission spent on season's tickets for the Anaheim Ducks NHL hockey games and Los Angeles Angeles baseball games between 2005 and 2008.  

That tidy sum didn't include food or beverages, either. No word on how much that cost.

Auditors found the bills for tickets - and in the Ducks' case, playoff tickets - were tucked away in a commission ledger called "merchandising, retail performance programs."

The way it was recorded on commission books "was not clearly transparent," auditors reported, adding it was unclear if the commission's oversight board knew about the tickets.

When auditors looked at who was using the tickets and if it was for business, they found internal logs showing 40 percent of Duck tickets went to the commission's own employees and 15 percent of Angels tickets also went to employees.

Another 21 percent of Angels tickets reportedly went unused.

The logs said nothing about what avocado industry business was discussed at hockey and baseball games - or who it was discussed with.

Employees who enjoyed the tickets did not reimburse the commission for them, the auditors added, concluding the expenses "were not in the best interests of the state."

Auditors have recommended that unidentified state employees who used any tickets be required to repay the money if they were used solely for personal purposes.

The Ducks were a hot and hard to get ticket in Southland in 2006-2007, when the team won hockey's Stanley Cup Championship and it made the playoffs again last year.

Former commission president Mark Affleck, who resigned in 2008, is a big ice hockey fan who still plays competitively, according to his biography on his church's web site. 

The audit has been turned over to Attorney General Jerry Brown's Office for further investigation of "possible financial improprieties."

The commission says it's adopted new spending controls to stop such abuses in the future.

Have a look at the audit here.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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