Duquette’s ticket absurdity

The ethics charges against former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette, detailed in today’s Boston Globe, highlight once again the absurdity of the state’s ticket resale law.

Duquette is accused of violating the state’s conflict of interest law by selling Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto two tickets to a Red Sox-Cardinals World Series game at Fenway Park in 2004. At the time, Duquette wasn’t working for the Red Sox; he was trying to negotiate a license with Pittsfield for his Berkshire Dukes baseball club to play at the city’s Wahconah Park.

It’s clear Duquette wanted to curry favor with Ruberto, who ultimately approved the license. But Duquette didn’t just give the mayor his tickets. He sold them to the mayor for a total of $380, which was their face value.

The state’s conflict of interest law bars anyone from giving directly or indirectly anything of substantial value to a public official for or because of an official act performed by the official.

Although Duquette sold his tickets to Ruberto at the face value of $190 apiece, the state’s ethics investigators say the tickets would have been worth much more if they had been sold on scalping websites. At yesterday’s hearing before the State Ethics Commission, an official from Ace Tickets, a local reseller, testified that tickets similar to Duquette’s were going for $2,000 to $3,000 apiece in 2004.

In essence, the state ethics investigators say Duquette gave something of substantial value to Ruberto by charging him the face value of $380 for tickets that could have been worth $4,000 to $6,000 on scalping websites.

But what the investigators fail to mention is that all those sales on scalping websites are technically illegal. The state’s antiscalping law bars resales for more than $2 above face value, but no one enforces the law so illegal sales are going on all the time. The illegal sales are even being introduced as evidence in Duquette’s case.

Bottom line: The state ethics investigators are right to question Duquette’s motives, but they should keep in mind he sold his Red Sox tickets legally at face value. If he had illegally scalped the tickets for thousands of dollars, would the case have gone away?

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine.

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