CITY HALL — Several furious aldermen Wednesday blasted the new rule that bans them from taking advantage of an offer from the Chicago Cubs to buy postseason tickets at face value, the city watchdog said Wednesday.
The policy, issued Friday Chicago Board of Ethics Chairman William Conlon, ruled the offer from the Cubs constitutes a "prohibited gift" under the city's ethics rules because the tickets are available to the public at a much higher price.
Inspector General Joe Ferguson said he had received a number of questions and complaints from aldermen after the Cubs withdrew the offer of face-value tickets to aldermen, with a team spokesman saying the issue had become a major distraction from the team's effort to win a World Series.
"No good deed goes unpunished," Ferguson said, adding that he would recommend that the law be "clarified" by the ethics board. "All sorts of nuances have come up."
After the hearing, Ferguson said that while the policy may need to be fine-tuned it was clear that purchasing the coveted tickets for less than members of the public can creates, at a minimum, an "appearance of a conflict of interest."
Ald. Michael Zalewski (23rd) told Ferguson that he was incensed by the new policy, issued while the Cubs played the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series and implemented for the World Series.
"This is getting silly," Zalewski said, complaining that the new policy would prevent him from buying tickets with his family. "It has gotten out of hand."
Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) blasted the new policy, calling it "half baked" and "ridiculous."
Ald. Milly Santiago (31st) — a self-described "hard core" Cubs fan — said the new policy was "insulting, humiliating, embarrassing."
Santiago said she could not afford to pay $1,000 for a ticket to a playoff game — and was quick to take advantage of the Cubs' offer, which she noted were for "terrible seats."
"I'm a poor alderman," Santiago said.
Aldermen make more than $100,000 annually for their official duties, and are allowed to hold outside employment.
Ferguson declined to tell aldermen whether he agreed with Conlon that accepting the offer to purchase Cubs tickets at face value violated the ban on public officials from accepting gifts worth more than $50, saying that was not within his role as watchdog overseeing the City Council.
"But how would you feel if I got tickets and you didn't?" Ferguson asked rhetorically.
Conlon's ruling explicitly allows Chicago public officials to purchase tickets the way any other Cubs fan would, either directly from the team or on the secondary market.
Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th) interrupted the back-and-forth to remind his colleagues that Wednesday was the 11th anniversary of the White Sox winning the World Series.
That brought a quick rejoinder from 38th Ward Ald. Nicholas Sposato, who frequently sports a Cubs jersey, that the lack of demand for White Sox tickets makes them "worthless."
That prompted 2nd Ward Ald. Brian Hopkins to leap into the fray, declaring that going to a White Sox game was "more ethical" than attending a Cubs game, since only rarely do Sox tickets sell for more than face value.
While no fan of the boys in blue, Hopkins said the new ruling would impose a "tremendous burden" on public officials to figure out whether they were violating the law or not.
"The law should be black and white," Hopkins said.
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