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San Diego Union-Tribune

NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

Chargers can trigger lease talks beginning March 1 | Council upholds delay, also OKs agreement

January 29, 2003

Abstract:
Assistant City Attorney Les Girard and Chargers attorney Allan Mutchnik say it is unlikely a court would strike down the delay. But, they said, the saving letter ensures that the Chargers won't be giving up their rights to trigger a renegotiation.

Some council members questioned whether the city should require that the Chargers pay the city's legal costs if there is a lawsuit. The Chargers opposed such a requirement.

Mayor Dick Murphy said the delay benefited the Chargers and the city, especially because it gives the task force time to finish its work in February. Because the Chargers opposed paying potential city legal fees, Murphy said it was not worth jeopardizing the whole deal.



Full Text:
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Jan 29, 2003

The Chargers today could have legally asked the city of San Diego to renegotiate their lease for Qualcomm Stadium, but that won't happen until at least March 1 after a vote yesterday by the City Council.

Earlier this month, council members voted 7-2 to delay from Dec. 1 to March 1 the activation of a 60-day window where the Chargers could deliver a renegotiation request to the city. Council members Donna Frye and Michael Zucchet dissented.

Yesterday, the council voted 5-4 to accept an agreement that also would force the city to accept the renegotiation notice if a court struck down the delay. Council members Frye, Zucchet, Toni Atkins and Brian Maienschein voted against the guarantee.

Reacting to the close vote, Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani said, "It says nothing is easy."

The council had delayed action on the agreement -- called a saving letter -- so its task force on Chargers issues could make a recommendation on the proposal. The task force voted 13-1 to endorse the agreement, adding language to protect the city.

Assistant City Attorney Les Girard and Chargers attorney Allan Mutchnik say it is unlikely a court would strike down the delay. But, they said, the saving letter ensures that the Chargers won't be giving up their rights to trigger a renegotiation.

Attorney Michael Aguirre has threatened to sue the city tomorrow, a day after the current trigger period expires, arguing that the City Council acted improperly in granting the delay.

Some council members questioned whether the city should require that the Chargers pay the city's legal costs if there is a lawsuit. The Chargers opposed such a requirement.

"Let the Chargers assume the remote risk," Atkins said.

She supported delaying the trigger notice deadline and said yesterday she would have supported the saving letter had the requirement been added that the team pay potential city legal fees.

Mayor Dick Murphy said the delay benefited the Chargers and the city, especially because it gives the task force time to finish its work in February. Because the Chargers opposed paying potential city legal fees, Murphy said it was not worth jeopardizing the whole deal.

Task force member Geoff Patnoe, who initiated the idea of a trigger delay with council members, agreed with Murphy's remarks. He told the council the delay would "allow the task force to finish the work you asked us to do in a less-hostile environment."

Frye said she found it ironic that task force members said they needed more time to finish their work, when it was her perception the Chargers' held up the panel.

The Chargers have declined to provide the task force financial information related to their economic impact on the community, charitable contributions or key studies connected to their stadium project, such as a marketing study, Frye said. The team also delayed its stadium presentation by a month, she said.

Norberto Santana: (619) 718-5069; norberto.santana@uniontrib.com



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