Alpharetta's ticket scandal far from over

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It’s pretty common in the business world. Companies buy season tickets to sporting events, theaters, concert venues, and other functions. They are used for entertaining clients or other purposes. And when seats are left over, many times employees get lucky and find themselves on the receiving end of a freebie. Nearly every company I’ve ever worked for has done this.

This practice is acceptable because one function of business is to enrich the lives of employees. They do this by paying salaries, providing benefits and other perks.

If this is the case then why is the public up in arms over Alpharetta’s ticket scandal? The difference is that city council members are not employees. They are public figures that are hopefully (or ideally) acting as servant leaders. They should not strive for, nor should the city provide, perks as a result of their service.

After thinking on this issue, I’ve come to a realization. The city council of this town operates as if they are executives of a company. It explains the initial reaction of Mayor Letchas, councilman Paine and others. They saw absolutely nothing wrong with receiving tickets as a part of their duties. It’s a mentality that permeates Alpharetta’s city hall and is the result of extremely close ties to the city’s business community. With so many of Alpharetta’s leaders coming up through the ranks of the Chamber of Commerce, you can see why they might have trouble shifting gears between corporate executive and public servant.

But they were to promote the venue and become familiar with it, right? A bogus argument that thankfully I’m hearing less and less of. If the ACVB wanted to promote the venue, they would have been better off sending extra tickets to radio stations, media outlets and, dare I say it, even bloggers. I expect politicians to promote local attractions and businesses anyway. Most who love this area, as I do, would gladly promote attractions without the need for freebies. This argument holds no merit in my mind.

Candidate Reactions

This stuff is changing quickly, yet I don’t think anyone is handling this controversy well. I’ve yet to see anyone come close to an apology.

Let’s go over the candidate spin…

Cheryl Oakes - She’s probably in the most trouble. Oakes is on the CVB board and took the most tickets of anyone. The AJC reported that some of her tickets were given to clients of her personal business. Taxpayer funded bling going to your clients… not good. And as best I can tell, I don’t see where she’s said much publicly about this.

David Belle Isle - Took the least tickets among the candidates for mayor, although his service on the council was interrupted. He was the first to go public with his repayment of ticket costs. But according to the AJC, he only initially refunded $75 for each ticket, far less than face value. At the same time, Belle Isle’s press release made the claim of “moral authority.” I’ve gotta push back on that insinuation. A person of moral authority in this matter would have refused the tickets in the first place.

Doug DeRito and Jim Paine – They both took a fair number of tickets. Makes sense that they were working on the down-low to pay the tickets without a lot of fanfare. Too late. They also took Belle Isle to task for issuing his payback challenge knowing that they were in the process of paying. Was it grandstanding on the part of Belle Isle? Probably. In my opinion, none of the candidates for mayor handled this well. I’m glad I’m not voting in this race.

Arthur Letchas - He’s coming to the close of a long career in Alpharetta politics. This issue could very well be the last official matter he deals with of any consequence. His response has been very disappointing.

Mayor Letchas; defending this practice isn’t worth the price of tarnishing your long legacy of service to Alpharetta. Do the right thing, sir.

Challengers - Voters these days dislike incumbents anyway. This scandal and the clumsy response by most involved gives challengers more ammo. It’s been fun watching all this play out. Pass the popcorn.