LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Lee County commissioners are getting a gentle warning: Don't get greedy when asking for free tickets to spring training baseball games. Lee County gets 50 free tickets for every Boston Red Sox game, 40 for each Minnesota Twins game.
Interim county manager Doug Meurer is putting out a memo to commissioners. It pleads with them to limit their requests for tickets to 4 per game. It also advises them to keep track of all ticket requests and who uses those tickets, because that information will be public record.
One resident does not like the sound of so many free tickets, available to elected officials.
"They get free tickets from teams that they are voting on. Isn't that unethical," asks Holly Zammerilla. "I mean, I worked at a grocery store, and we were not allowed to take anything free from the vendors, because that might influence how we treated those vendors. Isn't this the same thing? I do not believe the commissioners should get any free tickets."
Commissioner John Manning tells WINK News, he does not believe any elected official has abused the long-time practice.
"We are supposed to use the tickets to promote tourism primarily. So I give the tickets to visitors who come here, and ask for them. I figure, those people are spending money here, maybe they will buy a house here, so that's a good thing. I rarely give the tickets to anyone related to me. Last year I did give a ticket to a relative who happened to be visiting here from the Northeast and who wanted to see the Red Sox. I don't use the tickets myself, I don't have the time."
Commissioner Frank Mann refuses to comment on the matter. Commissioner Larry Kiker issued a statement, saying he will try to get the tickets to girl and boy scouts, and to little league organizations. Commission chair Cecil Pendergrass says he has not read the memo, and therefore cannot comment on it.
The memo from the interim county manager also advises commissioners that they must pay in advance if they want food and drinks in the county suite at either stadium. The memo also requests that commissioners make sure, any invited guests act professionally while in the suite. The memo says commissioners must reserve the suite in advance, and put in requests for prime parking spots close to the stadiums. Meurer says, those desireable parking spots go very quickly.
Katie Haas, the Red Sox top official in Lee County, says the practice of giving out complimentary tickets is very common in spring training cities and counties. She would not comment further on the practice.