SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- ABC7 News has learned that San Jose police officials accepted gifts from the San Francisco 49ers. What the officers did was in violation of a San Jose city ordinance. What's less clear is whether they violated department policy. It's a story you'll only see on ABC7 News.
You'll recall that earlier this month, a San Jose police sergeant was called by Niners defensive end Ray McDonald on the night he was arrested for allegedly abusing his pregnant fiancee. That cop did go to McDonald's house. And subsequently, it led to a very complicated police investigation. After that, the chief stopped his officers from working security with the 49ers because he was concerned about the policy and he was concerned about the perception of an overly cozy relationship. The question now is, just how cozy is that relationship with the top brass.
ABC7 News has learned that members of the department's command staff accepted free tickets to at least two Niners games.
In Aug. 2013, Assistant Chief Eddie Garcia went to the team's first preseason game at Candlestick. A photo shows him on the sidelines with a field pass which says "invited guest."
The second game was Aug. 24 at the new Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara between the Niners and San Diego Chargers.
Deputy Chief Jeff Marozick also attended.
A police spokesman told us that both chiefs were invited because it was the 49ers' "Law Enforcement Appreciation Day." He says they did fill out a state required Form 700, which is a declaration that they accepted gifts.
But by receiving the free tickets, Garcia and Marozick violated the city's gift ordinance. Upper echelon managers are only allowed to accept gifts worth less than $50. And it specifically prohibits tickets to professional sporting events.
"Tickets to an athletic event like a Sharks game, an A's game, a Giants game, a 49ers game," said San Jose City Attorney Rick Doyle, "If the face value of those tickets are more than $50 dollars, which is probably the case most of the time."
Perhaps more importantly, by accepting the free tickets, the two chiefs may have violated the police department's own duty manual.
San Jose's independent police auditor Judge Ladoris Cordell spoke to ABC7 News, agreeing to answer questions only about the manual and not on the specifics of our story. She points out that under "gratuities and bribes" in the manual, officers cannot accept any free tickets, period.
"Things like that, those are deemed to be gifts," she said. "So a discount, a gratuity, a favor, if they're not offered to everybody, you can't take them. We don't want officers, our police officers in San Jose, to be getting special favors from certain people because it might compromise them at some point. And it doesn't look good."
When we asked Garcia and Marozick to respond, a spokesman told us they had reimbursed the Niners for the tickets.
The 49ers' front office told us that each ticket was worth $187.
When we asked the police department when the chiefs paid, they replied it was last week, which is the week after ABC7 News inquired about the tickets.
Police Public Information Officer Heather Randol spoke for the department.
"Once we were made aware of the value of the ticket and that it did exceed that amount, we reimbursed it," she said. "But once again, we're very glad to be a part of this. These partnerships help us foster stronger partnerships with the community."
But Cordell says reimbursing the Niners is immaterial. She says the chiefs broke the rules, simple as that.
"The fact is the duty manual, the rule itself says you may not accept these," she said. "It doesn't say, you get around it by accepting it, and later paying money back."
SJPD Chief Larry Esquivel is in the midst of reviewing the department's policy on secondary work. Again, it is because he's concerned about the perception of a conflict of interest. Rank and file officers that ABC7 News spoke with say that concern should start at the top.