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.