"They seek advice from an individual who is in a position to know and then make a decision," Davis said. "There has not been a more formal or clear process."
Aisenstark said he merely advises elected officials about the law and never grants oral approval of gifts they would otherwise be prohibited from receiving.
Davis said Young endeavors to go "above and beyond" the ethics code in terms of transparency.
"The council president's belief is that you don't just need to conform to the letter of the law," Davis said. "In each and every instance [of receiving tickets], there's a legitimate and legal answer."
In 2009, Young reported receiving Orioles tickets from telecommunications company Verizon, which has received about $20 million in city contracts since 2008. Young said he got oral approval from Aisenstark before he accepted the tickets.
Also that year, Young reported the Devils tickets from Gottesman. And In 2010, Young reported getting Ravens tickets fromtheCordish Cos., a Baltimore developer that has worked with the city on Power Plant Live and other projects. In both instances, Young told The Sun, he paid cash for the tickets he listed in ethics forms as gifts. A Cordish spokeswoman said Young did pay him, and Gottesman couldn't be reached.
Through his spokesman, Young declined to provide documentation of those cash payments, calling it a matter of "his personal finances."
Summers, president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute, pointed out that Young could simply have contacted Ticketmaster if he wanted seats at sporting events.
"It's that incestuous relationship between developers and politicians," he said. "They continue to play the game."
Rawlings-Blake is known by ethics officials as a lawmaker who fills out her ethics forms in painstaking detail. Her reports are hundreds of pages in length.
Since 2008, Rawlings-Blake has listed receiving more than 100 tickets to 70 events.
The mayor frequently receives free tickets from 1st Mariner Arena General Manager Frank Remesch, who is allowed to invite the mayor to specific events under ethics law because he is an event sponsor. Rawlings-Blake has received tickets to shows by the Jonas Brothers, Alicia Keys, Beyonce, Maxwell and Jay-Z. The mayor also has received tickets to mixed martial-arts fights and the circus at 1st Mariner.
And in 2010, the mayor reported a gift of tickets to Le Reve dinner show at Wynn Resorts theater in Las Vegas, which she listed as having more than $150 in value, from Howard Perlow, executive vice president of Residential Title and Escrow Co. His company received about $35,000 in payments from the city in 2010. He did not respond to requests for comment.
When asked recently about the gift from Perlow, Rawlings-Blake's staff said her form was incorrect and that the tickets were provided by the Vegas hotel to Perlow for free. Therefore, the tickets had no value, and should be considered as coming from the hotel and not from Perlow, which would make the gift in line with the ethics code, they said.
The mayor's spokesman, Ryan O'Doherty, said Rawlings-Blake has a strong record on ethics issues, including introducing reforms that restructured the ethics board and made it more independent, closing gift loopholes that were abused during the Dixon administration, and increasing ethics training for her staff.
"Mayor Rawlings-Blakehas always gone above and beyond the reporting requirements of the city ethics code by providing voluminous disclosure statements for several years to promote transparency, and in each instance she followed the spirit of the code and maintained full compliance," he said.
The second-most-frequent reporter of gifts is Young, who lists gifts each year, though his forms are less detailed than the mayor's. For instance, Young sometimes lists the names of sporting events he attended but fails to say who gave him the tickets.
Most of the City Council's 15 members have not reported receiving any tickets over the three years. Others did not include the form on which to report gifts in their ethics filings.