Anaheim officials may change how they publicly disclose the thousands of free sports and concert tickets they get through lease agreements for city-owned venues like Angel Stadium and the Honda Center.

It comes after the Voice of OC published a three-part investigative series early this month that found that the city loosely tracks who gets thousands of free professional baseball games, hockey games and concert tickets worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.  

[Read: Anaheim’s Ticket to Ride: City Leaders Hand Out Thousands of Free Tickets Every Year]

City ticket disclosures can be found on the city website but are not searchable and only allow residents to download a PDF document for each event – some that include as many as 60 tickets.

Voice of OC created a searchable database for the tickets distributed between December 2022 through May 17, 2023 to make it easier for residents to figure out who was using the city’s free tickets the most. 

To review Voice of OC’s database of tickets from December through May 17, click here

To see the way the city discloses those tickets, click here

In response, Mayor Ashleigh Aitken said the disclosures could be more navigable and said she has asked the city manager’s office to look into how they can make the disclosure more accessible to residents.

When asked by a Voice of OC reporter about the issue, at a groundbreaking for an affordable housing project in Santa Ana earlier this month, Aitken said that the city staff are internally looking into how to make it easier for residents to see where the tickets go.

“For clarity and to follow up on our last convo, I have asked the CM’s (city manager’s) office to look into how we can make information regarding our ticket disclosures more accessible to the public,” she wrote in a follow-up text about a week after the event.   

“The current system-while it exceeds FPPC requirements-could be more navigable,” Aitken wrote.

Aitken said at the event the city may look into creating a database with the ticket disclosures rather than residents having to download separate PDF files to view who went to what event.

She said city staff could institute such reforms quickly but that if major changes were to be made those would happen in the open.

“We try not to put things on the agenda if we can do it internally to streamline government,” said Aitken, who was elected on a platform of transparency and reform.

Her father, Wylie, chairs Voice of OC’s Board of Directors.

No other council members responded to requests for comment last week about changes to the ticket policy or the disclosures.

While officials publicly say free tickets to events like Angel games or concerts go to nonprofits, a Voice of OC review of ticket disclosures on the city website spanning roughly the past six months showed a different story.

City council members and top city executives largely dished out thousands of tickets to themselves, city staffers, political insiders, family members of politicians and city vendors.

It’s the same top city officials who oversee and negotiate leases with the sports teams that the tickets allow them to go see professional athletes play baseball and hockey for free.

Victor Matheson, sports economics professor at the University of Minnesota who studies stadium sales and leases throughout the country, said the gifting of tickets to city officials who have oversight capability should be outlawed.

“Good luck getting that actually passed,” Matheson said in an interview earlier this year.  “But it’s obviously good public policy that you don’t accept gifts from people who have business before the government.”

City Spokesman Mike Lyster echoed Aitken that the city’s policy meets state disclosure laws. 

“Anaheim’s ticket policy meets or exceeds Fair Political Practices Commission guidelines,” Lyster wrote in a Wednesday email, which declined to comment on a host of Voice of OC questions about ticket policies. 

Yet neither Lyster nor Aitken went into details on how city disclosure policies exceed the commission’s guidelines.

Lyster did indicate that an internal discussion might be happening inside city hall about letting residents better understand who is getting free tickets to events.

But it seems clear that any discussions or changes on free ticket distribution, for now, will remain under consideration behind closed doors. 

“We are always open to internally looking at ways to make the searching of ticket disclosure forms, or any part of our website, more user friendly,” Lyster said in an emailed response to a host of Voice of OC questions. “We are unaware of any request to update or change the ticket policy that would call for a Council discussion.”

Noah Biesiada contributed to the reporting in this article.

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.


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