Miami Beach

Miami Beach changes policy on free tickets

More than two years after Miami Beach’s ticket policies were scrutinized by the State Attorney’s Office and the county ethics commission, the city has officially changed the way it hands out free event passes.

Miami Beach’s former city manager and an assistant city manager were investigated in 2011 after the chairman of the New World Symphony claimed that the city officials demanded free tickets in exchange for grant money to the symphony.

City officials were cleared in the state attorney’s probe, but the ethics commission issued non-binding recommendations for changing how the city distributes free tickets.

The city often negotiates free passes to high-profile events held in city venues such as the Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackie Gleason Theater and the Miami City Ballet, in exchange for public support of the venues or events. Other events, such as the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, also send free passes to city officials.

Under the new rules, elected officials and city staff will receive tickets “on a limited basis” such as for opening night events. Any tickets not used by city officials will be given to “deserving organizations or groups.” Which entities qualify as “deserving” will be picked once a year by a committee. Tickets might also be given to visiting dignitaries, for city marketing purposes and to recognize employees.

The city manager’s office will track free tickets that are handed out, and will post a log online detailing who got passes.

City officials will also have to list the tickets on gift disclosures.

Commissioner Deede Weithorn said the city already has been doing these things unofficially, but is now “memorializing” the rules.

“I think we have a lot more accountability of the tickets now,” Weithorn said.

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