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San Diego Union-Tribune

NORBERTO SANTANA JR.

Attorney files lawsuit to keep Chargers in town | Aguirre aims to prevent team from negotiating

December 5, 2002

Abstract:
Under California law, [Mike Aguirre] said he has a right as an interested citizen to bring a lawsuit to stop fraudulent or unfair business practices, and that's what he thinks the Chargers are doing by selling multiyear season tickets when they are contemplating leaving San Diego.

"We are focused on the Chargers' great season and on our work with the community to redesign the Qualcomm (Stadium) site in the best interests of all San Diegans, and we don't have any time to waste commenting on self-serving lawsuits brought by failed, perennial political candidates," said Mark Fabiani, special counsel to Chargers President Dean Spanos.

On Tuesday, the Chargers sent a letter to the City Council reiterating an offer made to Mayor Dick Murphy in May to renegotiate aspects of the lease. The Chargers wanted to eliminate the current lease, due to expire in 2020, in exchange for a temporary lease that would extend to 2004, when the team hoped voters would approve a ballot initiative for a new stadium.

Full Text:
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Dec 5, 2002

Editions vary

A lawsuit aimed at preventing the San Diego Chargers from negotiating to move to another city was filed yesterday in Superior Court by local attorney Mike Aguirre.

Aguirre's lawsuit, filed on behalf of Peter Direnza, a former county grand jury foreman, also seeks to stop the Chargers from renegotiating their contract with the city until they can prove the team faces genuine financial hardship.

Under California law, Aguirre said he has a right as an interested citizen to bring a lawsuit to stop fraudulent or unfair business practices, and that's what he thinks the Chargers are doing by selling multiyear season tickets when they are contemplating leaving San Diego.

A Chargers spokesman dismissed the lawsuit as frivolous.

"We are focused on the Chargers' great season and on our work with the community to redesign the Qualcomm (Stadium) site in the best interests of all San Diegans, and we don't have any time to waste commenting on self-serving lawsuits brought by failed, perennial political candidates," said Mark Fabiani, special counsel to Chargers President Dean Spanos.

Aguirre, a former assistant U.S. attorney, has made unsuccessful bids for U.S. Congress, San Diego City Council and San Diego district attorney. He now works as a trial attorney, specializing in fraud cases.

His lawsuit comes as San Diego city officials began preliminary talks this week with Chargers officials over the team's lease at Qualcomm Stadium.

On Tuesday, the Chargers sent a letter to the City Council reiterating an offer made to Mayor Dick Murphy in May to renegotiate aspects of the lease. The Chargers wanted to eliminate the current lease, due to expire in 2020, in exchange for a temporary lease that would extend to 2004, when the team hoped voters would approve a ballot initiative for a new stadium.

Murphy rejected the offer and persuaded others on the council to form a citizens task force to study Chargers issues.

"The current lease arrangement between the City and the Chargers makes it extraordinarily difficult to engage in a productive public debate," Fabiani wrote in a letter to city officials.

Earlier in the week, Murphy and Councilmen Ralph Inzunza and Scott Peters asked the city staff to see if the Chargers would consider extending a deadline the team has to force a lease renegotiation. Beginning last Sunday, the team has 60 days to trigger the renegotiation talks, under its lease with the city.

After receiving Fabiani's letter, Murphy and the councilmen asked the staff to listen to any offers made by the Chargers.

"If the Chargers have a proposal regarding the ticket guarantee, they can present it to the City Council next Tuesday at our public meeting," Murphy said Tuesday night through a spokeswoman.

"We have been in communication with them," Assistant City Attorney Les Girard said yesterday. "We're still talking to them in anticipation of reporting to the City Council next week as requested by the mayor."

Girard and Murphy declined comment on Aguirre's lawsuit, saying they had not read it.

Councilman Michael Zucchet, who took office Monday, said Aguirre's move "sounds creative, and I'm all for creative thinking right now. I'll look forward to how this plays out."

Another newly elected councilman, Charles Lewis, was more cautious.

"I have some concerns," he said. "The Chargers are going to have to react to it (the lawsuit), and I don't know how they're going to react to it. I wish Mr. Aguirre would let the city negotiate."

Aguirre said city leaders should be careful not to erode their legal options by entering into private talks with the Chargers.

"It sounds like they're putting up the white flag and surrendering when, in fact, they should be standing up for the rights of San Diegans under the current contract," he said.

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

 



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