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San Diego Union-Tribune

NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

Citizens task force says Chargers are dragging feet

November 15, 2002

Abstract:
Mark Fabiani, special counsel to Chargers President Dean Spanos, said the team's design experts needed more time to finish their proposals after speaking with community groups last week.

When the San Diego City Council created the 15-member panel in July, it asked the group to determine whether the Chargers and the National Football League were important assets to the region and its economy. The council also asked the task force to consider what the city could do to keep the Chargers in San Diego in a fiscally responsible way which the public could support.

When asked whether the Chargers would open their books, Fabiani said, "It's too soon to say. It depends on the attitude of the task force."

Full Text:
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Nov 15, 2002

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Members of the Citizens Task Force on Chargers Issues lashed out last night at the team over delays in presenting their new-stadium proposal and turning over financial documents.

A Chargers spokesman told the task force that they couldn't show the stadium designs until January. With the task force expected to report back to the San Diego City Council in February, some panel members said the team could delay their final report.

"I'm just really frustrated," said Task Force Chairman David Watson.

"I feel they're manipulating the dates," said Karen Heumann, a lawyer serving on the task force.

Mark Fabiani, special counsel to Chargers President Dean Spanos, said the team's design experts needed more time to finish their proposals after speaking with community groups last week.

"We're learning more and more with every meeting we go to," he said, adding that traffic issues needed to be fleshed out further.

"I think that's a bunch of baloney," Heumann said.
When the San Diego City Council created the 15-member panel in July, it asked the group to determine whether the Chargers and the National Football League were important assets to the region and its economy. The council also asked the task force to consider what the city could do to keep the Chargers in San Diego in a fiscally responsible way which the public could support.

Yet panel members haven't received key financial documents that they say would enable them to make that determination.

"Mr. Fabiani promised all kinds of information, and here we are on Nov. 14 without any of it," Watson said.

The Task Force Subcommittee on Finances asked the Chargers for a series of documents on Sept. 25, giving the team a 30-day deadline.

The panel sought financial statements, a listing of charitable contributions, revenues from ticket sales and NFL broadcasting rights, as well as payroll expenses.

While Chargers officials sent some documents to the task force, the team has still not replied to most of the panel's requests, the task force says.

"They gave us all the easy stuff," said finance panel member Geoff Patnoe, such as a long list containing the ZIP codes of all season ticket holders.

"The Chargers continue to hold their cards," Patnoe said. "It's a little frustrating."

Finance panel members have agreed to send another letter to the Chargers, urging them to comply, or explain the reasons they cannot.

Fabiani disputed Watson's claims that the team has been uncooperative. He said additional materials have been gathered from the NFL but no follow-up letter from the finance panel has been received.

He said opening a team's books is difficult.

"It's a process. You have to work through these issues and give what you can possibly give consistent with your contractual obligations to the NFL and your proprietary obligations to your team," he said.

The Chargers' argument for a new stadium rests on their claim that the team cannot remain competitive at Qualcomm Stadium.

Yet no NFL team has ever backed up such financial claims in public.

"The only time I'm aware of that any NFL team has made their information public was during a legal process," said Professor Mark Rosentraub, who specializes in sports at Cleveland State University.

Rosentraub was referring to a lawsuit by the Oakland Raiders against the NFL last year. "A team is a private business and they're going to try, as any one of us would, to withhold what is clearly personal information."

When the Padres' argument for a new ballpark hinged on similar assertions of threatened financial viability, the team had to show a public task force its books.

Padres former minority owner and President Larry Lucchino gave a closed-door briefing to a task force in 1997. The team later opted to make the presentation public.

Fabiani said he is confident that some type of process can be established.

When asked whether the Chargers would open their books, Fabiani said, "It's too soon to say. It depends on the attitude of the task force."

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



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