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Lawmakers accepted tickets from casino owner, pricey gifts

July 9, 2018

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Lawmakers in Glendale acknowledged they accepted game tickets from a casino owner and pricey gifts from others.

Glendale councilmembers Jamie Aldama and Ian Hugh said they received tickets from the Tohono O’odham Nation to attend major league sporting events with tribal members, The Arizona Republic reported .

Glendale City Council last month gave the Tohono O’odham Nation the final approval the tribe needed to see through its development vision that includes a resort near Desert Diamond Casino.

Aldama said he and his son went to a Final Four game in spring 2017 with Tohono O’odham officials.

Hugh said he and his wife went to an Arizona Cardinals game with the tribal officials, but could not remember what month the game was in.

The acceptance of the tickets, which the newspaper obtained under the Arizona Public Records Law, speaks to a longstanding belief among many public officials in Glendale and across the state that accepting lavish gifts from those they do business with is part of the job, according to The Arizona Republic.

The city sold the tribe a piece of land that extended into tribal land for $3.1 million. After years of lawsuits and controversy around the tribe’s land, the sale was approved unanimously without discussion.

Just before the vote, Edward Manuel, chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation, told the council he wants the city and tribe to have a working relationship with surrounding communities.

“We are making that effort to make that happen here in Glendale,” he said.

Both council members attended the games in a suite purchased by the tribe and estimated the tickets were worth more than $500.

Both men said they were not aware of the upcoming land vote at the time and said they saw no conflict in accepting the tickets.

“If I didn’t want anyone to know, I wouldn’t have put it on there,” Aldama said of the gift disclosure form that council members file annually with the city.

Other gifts to council members in 2017 included a ride on the Arizona Cardinals’ private jet and Fiesta Bowl tickets from the game’s organizing committee.

Daniel Adelman, executive director of the Arizona Center for Law in Public Interest, said, generally, gifts are meant to influence public officials.

It’s unclear which Glendale City Council members received invitations to professional games from the Tohono O’odham Nation in 2017.

When asked for more details about the gifts, such as who received them, how much the suites costs and whether these gifts could be seen as a conflict, the Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise sent an email to The Arizona Republic with a statement from spokeswoman Treena Parvello.

“The Enterprise always attempts to follow relevant regulations pertaining to these issues and will continue to review our procedures to ensure ongoing compliance,” part of the statement read.

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Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com

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