After infuriating constituents and embarassing her City Council colleagues, Ald. Milly Santiago (31st) is now apologizing for her public tirade against a Board of Ethics ruling that forced the Cubs to yank a lucrative offer to let aldermen purchase World Series tickets at face value.
“I never intended to offend anybody and, if I did offend somebody, I apologize,” Santiago, whose annual salary is $116,208, told Fox-32 Chicago during an interview recorded Thursday.
“When I said `poor alderman,’ — I’m very grateful for my salary and my position. What I meant to say was, you know, compared to so many people, the scalpers and all these brokers and all these people who have access to all these tickets to the highest price, of course I’m poor compared to them. Because my salary doesn’t make me rich.”
Santiago described her whiny rant as a “moment of passion and excitement” for a die-hard Cubs fan.
“I’m a loyal fan and that was a moment I was waiting for along with millions of people. In a moment of passion and the excitement, I probably said the wrong thing. It came out bad. And I apologize for that.”
On Friday, Santiago could not be reached for comment. She also boycotted the final day of City Council budget hearings — and it’s a good thing. If looks could kill, Santiago might be dead.
Aldermen have been shooting daggers at Santiago, ever since she opened her mouth and dared to say what some of her colleagues have been thinking about the Ethics Board ruling that forced the Cubs to yank a lucrative ticket offer they had extended to aldermen for at least a decade.
Santiago said then she was just a “poor alderman” who can’t afford to pay thousands of dollars to purchase World Series tickets on the secondary market.
“We were not the ones reaching out to the Cubs for some freebies or for some special treatment. The Cubs actually reached out to all of us to offer face-value tickets. Cubs fans have to say yes. I said yes. I said of course I would like some tickets. We paid for them,” Santiago said then.
Santiago branded the controversy triggered by the Board of Ethics narrow interpretation of the city’s gift ban “kind of insulting, humiliating and embarrassing for us” for a perk that wasn’t all that hot.
“First of all, those tickets were not front-row tickets. They were all the way in the upper-deck. If I went like this, I would almost touch the ceiling. That’s how bad those tickets were,” Santiago said, lifting her arm over her head.
“This should be a matter of individual and personal choice. Those who are not Cubs fans can just say, `No. I’m not interested.’ But those of us who would like to get a chance to go to one of those games and be part of history — we should have that choice.”
After reading a Chicago Sun-Times story about her tirade, Santiago walked past the City Hall press room and gave the reporter who wrote it a thumbs-up. The rookie alderman was that proud of the stand she had taken.
But that was before colleagues privately accused her of embarrassing them. It was also before Santiago was buried in emails from angry constituents and before columnists, cartoonists and editorial writers had a field day lampooning her.
An aldermanic colleague, who asked to remain anonymous, said Santiago’s tirade was stunningly tone-deaf for a former television reporter who should have known how her remarks would play in the press.
Sources said Santiago is now aware of the mistake she made and she has apologized to selected colleagues for putting them on the spot.
But the damage is done. If it’s even possible to further tarnish the image of a City Council that has sent 30 of its present or former members to prison since 1970, Santiago may have done it.
Santiago wasn’t the only alderman publicly complaining about the Ethics Board ruling.
Several aldermen also used Inspector General Joe Ferguson’s testimony at City Council budget hearings to demand further clarification from a newly-appointed Ethics Board chairman who aldermen claim had gone too far in declaring the face-value tickets a violation of the ethics ordinance banning gifts valued at more than $50.
“I don’t know how this could possibly be enforced. It’s a tremendous burden to put on a baseball fan to try and figure out at any given moment what the price of the game might be on the secondary market,” said Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd).
“If this is gonna be part of the ethical policy going forward, it needs more than clarity.”
On Friday, a source close to the Board of Ethics clarified that the ruling applies not just to playoff and World Series tickets, but to face-value tickets to any high-demand sporting, concert or theatrical event whenever tickets are being sold on the secondary market for at least $50 more than the aldermen paid.
That means if aldermen have purchased face value tickets to the hit show, “Hamilton,” they may be violating the ethics ordinance, assuming Ferguson chooses to open an investigation. On Friday, the inspector general was cagey when asked whether he was investigating aldermen paying face-value for “Hamilton” tickets.
“I’m not going there. Actually, I’m not aware of there being any free tickets given to anybody or face-value tickets being given to anybody for `Hamilton.’ But, if you’ve got some of that information, I’ll be happy to take it…and we’ll look into it,” Ferguson said, while taping the WLS-AM (890) Radio show, “Connected to Chicago,” to be broadcast at 7 p.m. Sunday.
He added, “Look, we’re a 65-person shop looking at all sorts of things…There are a lot of other things we need to attend to.”