During Stadium Audit Debate, Raj Chahal Defends 49ers and Get Rebuked by Staff and Council

By Robert Haugh

Last Tuesday, the Santa Clara Stadium Authority (SCSA) had a five-hour debate about the latest stadium audit. We’ve written about the audit’s highlights earlier.

But there were a lot of interesting statements made during the debate that are worth reading or watching. 

Councilman Raj Chahal was the instigator of a lot of the debate.

Chahal early in the discussion acknowledged that the audit shows that the SCSA is not getting proper documentation from the 49ers company that manages the non-NFL events at the stadium.

But then Chahal blamed the City for the problems. Huh? It’s like he was reading talking points given to him by 49ers exec Rahul Chandhok.

First, Chahal questioned why the auditor, J.S. Held shared “confidential” information. That was a major complaint of the 49ers in the letter that Scott Sabatino sent last week complaining about the auditor and telling the SCSA to fire J.S. Held.

City Attorney Brian Doyle shot Chahal down by saying this:

“The public has a right to know why we’re losing so much money especially if part of the reason is there could be some self-dealing to the tune of not adhering to the contract provisions which require a separate set of books.” 

According to the audit, the 49ers don’t keep separate books for non-NFL events which they’re required to do. They “commingle” the funds with their NFL events so there’s no transparency about what they’re charging the City. The City also doesn’t know what the share of non-NFL revenue should be.

Chahal then argued that the problem is that the SCSA “does not have a good contract.”

City Manager Deanna Santana corrected Chahal by saying that in the contracts, the 49ers have a “charge to maximize revenue” and they’re not doing it.

Chahal then argued that the reason that the 49ers are not giving more revenue to the City is after the first three years of stadium operations, our relations “dived down.”

This statement got major pushback from Chahal’s SCSA colleagues.

Councilwoman Debi Davis asked that staff spend some time to “school Chahal” about the history of how the 49ers have refused to share information with the City. She was unhappy that Chahal hadn’t done his homework. Chahal didn’t know how she and others were blocked from getting information when a previous Council majority was 49er friendly.

Councilwoman Teresa O’Neill was uncharacteristically angry with Chahal. She told him that he should “be informed before you say things.”

O’Neill said in rebuttal to Chahal:  “There are still obligations that are clear and they are legal obligations that have not been fulfilled. So whether the contracts are bad or not, there are still things that have to be done.”

Chahal again argued that it’s the SCSA’s fault, not the 49ers. He said, “the buck stops at the Board.”

Doyle reminded Chahal that the 49ers are withholding information. And they were aided by 49er-friendly allies Patty Mahan, Dominic Caserta, Pat Kolstad and Mike Sellers who tried to stop a previous audit. Doyle called them sellouts to the 49ers “who basically were trying to thwart the public getting any information.”

Doyle complimented Davis, O’Neill and Lisa Gillmor who was then a Councilwoman for trying to get information in prior years. Doyle said, “the administration at the time was hiding information from them.” (This happened before Doyle was appointed City Attorney).

Doyle challenged Chahal: “Why don’t you ask Mayor (Jamie) Matthews who ran off in the middle of the night why he didn’t look into this?”

Chahal defended himself by pledging that “I will do anything I can to make some money for our residents.”

Chahal has been on the Council since 2018 and meets with the 49ers regularly. Since then, the 49ers have given less revenue to the City.

This is the second major issue recently where Chahal has failed to adequately do his homework and been rebuked by staff and his colleagues. The earlier one involved a new garbage contract and split carts.

Councilman Raj Chahal


  1. Thanks for the valuable coverage, which becomes more important with time. Would you consider adding video links for the comments you highlight? I think many people will be interested in seeing them for themselves. They will also be a valuable tool, come next election season.

    • Good suggestion, Yuki Ikezi. Video links could be valuable tool for a recall campaign in Santa Clara too.

  2. I’ve seen a few other places where Raj has interjected himself into city/council proceedings. I keep thinking, if I was a new council member, I’d lay low, *listen* and *learn* first, before more strongly expressing my opinion. I guess that’s not his style at all …

  3. Let him play his hand, it’s obvious he wants to be mayor.

    We can all watch Raj sell out to the 49ers for the next two years.

    • If tonight is any indication, Santa Clara just elected a bunch of dysfunctionals! The ship that was as righted is now wronged!

  4. As a resident of this City, this is embarrassing to have someone like this in position of leadership.

    Last I checked he was elected by residents to representing us, not the local company who is under contract with the City.

    Burt Field

  5. Since the 49ers are keeping books, the city should be able to break out the cost easily for NFL and non NFL events. The 49ers should have separate accounting, but if they don’t the city should have access to everything and breaking out the cost should be easy for the city. If I had to guess voters in Santa Clara got frustrated with the constant disputes with the 49ers. Election day, the citizens of Santa Clara decided they had enough of the arguing. Both sides need to sit down and work together. If the city is unable to break out the cost, try hiring an accounting person that can examine everything and determine what the city should get in revenue. The city is making it very difficult for the 49ers and city to make money for the tax payers. When you have events over the weekend, the city should be generating money through hotels fees, tax and food. From my prospective your limiting the ability of the 49ers to make additional revenue, thus making money for the city. The city needs to look at the big picture and see the potential revenue that they are missing. City council members should tone it done and don’t be so insulting to other council members.

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