Saturday, 2:15 PM
Former Red Sox GM, Pittsfield mayor face ethics charge over Series tickets
By James Vaznis, Globe Staff
Former Sox general manager Daniel Duquette was raked over the coals by Red Sox fans for failing to get the team to the World Series. Now he is embroiled in a state ethics controversy for allegedly selling Pittsfield Mayor James M. Ruberto two face-value tickets to the 2004 World Series at a time when seats were fetching as much as $2,000 apiece.
Duquette told investigators that he sold Ruberto the two tickets for $190 each because he wanted his minor league team, the Berkshire Dukes, to play at a city park, according to a statement made public today by the State Ethics Commission.
The commission alleges that the transaction violated the state’s conflict of interest law because face-value tickets were not available at the time to the general public. Tickets were selling on the Internet for $600 to $2,000 per ticket, according to the statement from the ethics commission's enforcement division.
“By selling the World Series tickets to Ruberto at face value, where the general public could only obtain such tickets at prices more than $50 over face value, Duquette provided something of substantial value to Ruberto for or because of official acts to be performed by Ruberto as mayor,” the statement says.
Public hearings on the issue will be scheduled within 90 days. The hearing process will work similar to judicial proceedings, in which each side will exchange evidence and witness lists in advance of the hearings.
The mayor’s attorney, Leonard H. Cohen, said in a statement that the purchase of the World Series tickets did not influence the mayor's dealings with the minor league team. Cohen said he drove a hard bargain to allow the Dukes to play at Wahconah Park because it resulted in substantial economic benefits to the city.
“He purchased two tickets at face value ($190/ea) to the second game of the 2004 Red Sox World Series for one reason and one reason only,” Cohen said. “He, like countless other Red Sox fans in New England and elsewhere, at last had hopes that his beloved team would win the World Series in his lifetime.”
Cohen added: “Jimmy Ruberto, dedicated public servant and long suffering Red Sox fan, purchased two tickets to see his team and there is simply no impropriety in that.”
Duquette said in an e-mail that Ruberto has been a friend of the Duquette family for many years, but to avoid any perception of potentially violating the state’s ethics law governing gifts, he decided to sell the tickets to him at face value.
“I believed then and I believe now that by not gifting the Mayor a ticket and instead selling it to him for the price set by Major League Baseball (MLB), I am not in violation of any Massachusetts law, regulation, or ethical norm,” Duquette said. “Furthermore, there was never any intent, offer, discussion, act or acts, official or unofficial, discussed, implied, mentioned, or required by Jim Ruberto on behalf of my family or any of the businesses in which I am involved in connection with the purchase of this ticket at face value.”
Duquette also said he believed the ethics commission was out of line to note that tickets were selling for much more on the Internet, when Major League Baseball rules forbids officials to sell tickets for greater than face value.
“As far as I am concerned, the tickets in question, secured from MLB which I made available to family and friends, could only be resold under MLB rules for face value,” Duquette said, later adding, “To suggest that a ticket becomes a gift to a public official because its sale price was based on a MLB directive (and state anti-scalping law) rather than on anecdotal evidence about its potential value on EBAY and Craig's List seems to me, to stretch Law 268 well beyond its intended reach.”
Duquette noted that ultimately the Dukes and the city hammered out a great deal for its residents. The team pays a per-game fee of $300 and an annual payment of $10,000, more than any other team paid for a home facility last year, he said.
“If this were more widely known, I believe it would reassure citizens of Pittsfield and Massachusetts state officials that the mayor represented their interests exceedingly well in this transaction,” Duquette said, “and there was nothing improper about its execution for either the landlord or the tenant.”
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