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San Diego Union-Tribune

CAITLIN ROTHER

Aguirre: Mayor has misled on Chargers | New details revealed about city-team talks

November 20, 2002

Abstract:
During his deposition, [John Kern] revealed new details about a May 6 meeting between senior city and Chargers officials -- specifically, that it was held at the downtown office of the Chargers' law firm and that it was attended by the attorney who negotiated the 1995 lease agreement with the city and a political consultant who was hired to negotiate a new pact this year.

Representing the Chargers at the meeting, Kern said, were Allan Mutchnik, the team's Los Angeles attorney who negotiated the 1995 lease; Jeanne Bonk, the team's chief financial officer; Jerry Murphy, the top fiscal officer for the team and other corporations held by team owner Alex Spanos; and [Fabiani], whom team President Dean Spanos dubbed leader of the Chargers' negotiating team for a new stadium.

At a lunch with Kern on April 22, Fabiani delivered a letter from Spanos to the mayor, saying, "I firmly believe it is in the best interests of both the city and the Chargers to begin negotiations now, rather than forcing the Chargers to trigger the contractual renegotiation right."

Full Text:
Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Nov 20, 2002

Editions vary

An attorney suing the city of San Diego yesterday accused Mayor Dick Murphy of misleading the public earlier this year when he said the city was not negotiating with the Chargers about building a new stadium.

Attorney Mike Aguirre first made the accusation in May and June when he filed two lawsuits relating to the Chargers' push for a new stadium, but he said his belief was confirmed Friday when he deposed Murphy's chief of staff, John Kern.

During his deposition, Kern revealed new details about a May 6 meeting between senior city and Chargers officials -- specifically, that it was held at the downtown office of the Chargers' law firm and that it was attended by the attorney who negotiated the 1995 lease agreement with the city and a political consultant who was hired to negotiate a new pact this year.

Previously, the mayor and city staff have characterized the meeting as one to establish the groundwork for future discussions. The Chargers, however, told ticket holders after the meeting that they were "working with the city" to explore economic incentives for the team.

"We caught them red-handed holding a secret meeting at Luce, Forward's (law) office with the financial and legal negotiating team for the Chargers and the same negotiating team that the city has used in past sports negotiations," Aguirre said.

"That explains the mayor's stinging rebuke of our assertion that they were in the middle of discussing how to build a new facility for the Chargers with public funds."

Murphy declined to be interviewed for this story. Through a spokeswoman, he said he does not comment on pending litigation.

Kern gave the deposition as part of a lawsuit Aguirre filed in June on behalf of Pete DiRenza, foreman of the grand jury in 1999 when it accused former Mayor Susan Golding of misconduct relating to passage of the ballot measure authorizing the Padres' new ballpark. Golding was cleared of wrongdoing.

The lawsuit seeks public records relating to what Aguirre characterized as "secret meetings" among high-level city officials as well between city and Chargers officials.

During his deposition, Kern acknowledged that city and team officials met for three hours at the law offices of Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps.

"(Chargers' consultant Mark) Fabiani and I thought it would be a good idea if everybody got together and talked about what to talk about, if anything," Kern said, according to an unofficial transcript.

"We specifically said this is not a negotiating session. Simply, what are you guys talking about? You say you've got economic problems. What do you mean by economic problems? . . . Just talk to us and tell us what the scope of things are, and if you want to proceed doing something, what it is you want to proceed doing?"

The Chargers contend they cannot remain economically competitive if they stay in Qualcomm Stadium.

Under the 1995 lease, the team agreed to remain at Qualcomm until 2020 in return for the $78 million stadium expansion completed in 1997. The lease includes a trigger provision that allows the team to reopen negotiations next month if certain financial conditions are met.

Representing the Chargers at the meeting, Kern said, were Allan Mutchnik, the team's Los Angeles attorney who negotiated the 1995 lease; Jeanne Bonk, the team's chief financial officer; Jerry Murphy, the top fiscal officer for the team and other corporations held by team owner Alex Spanos; and Fabiani, whom team President Dean Spanos dubbed leader of the Chargers' negotiating team for a new stadium.

Representing the city were Kern, Assistant City Attorney Les Girard and Deputy City Manager Bruce Herring. Also present were Paul Jacobs, a Denver sports attorney, and Dan Barrett, a Manhattan Beach sports consultant who advised the city during the Padres ballpark deal. Girard and Herring worked on that deal as well.

This week, Fabiani agreed with Kern, saying the meeting was not a negotiations session.

"There were no proposals made by either party. There was nothing specific discussed," he said. "It was all an opportunity (to discuss) where we thought all of this was headed."

Fabiani said he has since talked with Kern by phone but said he doesn't believe the mayor has spoken with Dean Spanos.

Aguirre noted that the May 6 meeting came shortly after Spanos and Murphy had lunch April 18.

At a lunch with Kern on April 22, Fabiani delivered a letter from Spanos to the mayor, saying, "I firmly believe it is in the best interests of both the city and the Chargers to begin negotiations now, rather than forcing the Chargers to trigger the contractual renegotiation right."

Ten days after the May 6 meeting, the Chargers sent a letter to season ticket holders saying, "We are now working with the city of San Diego to explore ways to guarantee that the Chargers will be able to compete on an equal economic footing with other NFL teams for years to come."

Aguirre has subpoenaed Dean Spanos for a deposition Dec. 23 to determine whether that statement was based on discussions at the May 6 meeting.

Fabiani, speaking for Spanos, said yesterday, "(That statement) expressed our hope that the city would continue to speak with us about ways to continue discussions -- ways to begin discussions. Subsequent to that letter, the mayor decided to appoint the task force."

Aguirre agreed to drop his first lawsuit, filed in May to try to stop the city and team officials from holding "secret meetings" on the Chargers stadium issue, after Murphy announced he was forming a citizens task force.

The panel was asked to submit recommendations to the City Council in February on what, if anything, the city should do to try to keep the team from leaving town.

Caitlin Rother: (619) 542-4567; caitlin.rother@uniontrib.com

 



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