San Diego Union-Tribune
NORBERTO SANTANA JR.
Chargers task force accused of sloppiness | Board criticized for Denver plan, open-meeting violation
September 25, 2002
Henderson, a frequent critic of the Chargers and past stadium proposals, also questioned items in Barrett's statement of qualifications that included a Chargers executive and the Rose Bowl operating company as references. City officials said the Chargers executive, Kimberley Layton, was a former mayoral chief of staff who worked with [Dan Barrett] when he advised city leaders on the Padres' downtown ballpark.
A series of procedural missteps along with a proposed trip to Denver by the Citizen's Task Force on Chargers Issues have triggered mounting questions about the group's credibility.
San Diego City Councilman Jim Madaffer joined the chorus yesterday questioning the trip and other issues regarding the task force, such as giving notice of meetings, hiring of consultants and the lack of public input.
"Public perceptions would be better served if there wasn't so much procedural sloppiness," Madaffer said after a council session in which he raised the issue of task force conduct. "I want to make sure that whatever we do is done properly and in the light of day."
The San Diego City Council created the 15-member task force to examine what, if anything, might be done to keep the Chargers in San Diego, including building a new stadium with or without public financing.
Earlier this month, the task force voted 11-3 to visit Denver's new stadium at city expense, ostensibly to broaden their understanding of the issues. Several members, including chairman David Watson, worried aloud that the trip might send an incorrect message that the task force already favors a publicly financed stadium in San Diego or is going on a boondoggle. A week after the vote, Watson admitted the action also inadvertently violated the state's open-meeting laws, because it was not included on that night's agenda. The law also prohibits legislative bodies from meeting outside the geographic area they represent.
Once he realized the mistake, Watson announced that a vote on the trip would have to be re-taken at the next meeting, which is at 5 p.m. tomorrow at Qualcomm Stadium.
Madaffer urged the task force to "seriously rethink" the trip.
"The constituents in my district have said loud and clear, `It's a junket,' " Madaffer said.
Some task force members said the public outcry over the Denver trip has made them rethink their position.
"These are legitimate issues that are being raised," said Geoff Patnoe, who represents the San Diego County Taxpayers Association on the panel.
"I'm not opposed to us taking a trip. The question is a timing issue and allowing the process of our subcommittee (on Facilities and Redevelopment) to make the recommendation of if, when and where."
Joe Martinez, chairman of the Facilities and Redevelopment subcommittee, said he still supports the trip.
"If we didn't go, it would have tainted our credibility," Martinez said.
Martinez, an architect, said it is important to see and feel what the National Football League and Chargers are talking about when they describe the advantages of new stadiums, adding that a new- stadium tour would come only after a task force tour of Qualcomm tomorrow.
Watson said any of those benefits are overshadowed by the public perceptions connected with such a trip.
"I always thought it was inappropriate and unnecessary," Watson said. "Everyone I talk to, from my family, my friends, my colleagues, my co-workers, has criticized this trip."
Task force member Bruce Henderson, who was nominated to the task force by Madaffer, has criticized a host of decisions, such as the selection of Denver as a site visit -- as opposed to another city -- and the decision to retain Manhattan Beach-based Barrett Sports Group to advise the task force.
Deputy City Manager Bruce Herring confirmed that he privately proposed the visit to Denver based on San Diego's connections with consultants, officials and stadium managers in that city. Herring said he also suggested using Barrett Sports Group because of its nationwide reputation and its experience with San Diego City Hall and knowledge of the Los Angeles market.
Dan Barrett, who heads the firm, said he is "fully committed to the city of San Diego and the task force."
Henderson, a frequent critic of the Chargers and past stadium proposals, also questioned items in Barrett's statement of qualifications that included a Chargers executive and the Rose Bowl operating company as references. City officials said the Chargers executive, Kimberley Layton, was a former mayoral chief of staff who worked with Barrett when he advised city leaders on the Padres' downtown ballpark.
"I have never worked for the San Diego Chargers," Barrett said. "The work for the Rose Bowl has been focused on UCLA's lease extension and stadium operating issues. I am not working on any effort to attract an NFL franchise to Los Angeles."
Henderson has said he criticized those decisions mainly because they were not debated and decided upon publicly by task force members.
Norberto Santana Jr.: (619) 718-5069; email@example.com
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