By Robert Haugh
The first 49ers issue came up last night since last November’s election when the team spent $3 million to elect three councilmembers: Anthony Becker, Suds Jain and Kevin Park. Neither one of them had ever won a city election before the 49ers’ major spending.
It was something that should have been a routine item, but it wasn’t. Here’s some background that’s important.
Each year, key local government officials have to file the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) Statements of Economic Interests, Form 700. It’s a way to make sure that people who are spending tax dollars don’t have conflicts of interest.
Since 49ers executives make decisions on how to spend stadium money, the FPPC determined that they have to file Form 700. But they’ve resisted doing that for years.
It was only in 2018 after 49ers executive Jim Mercurio was forced to file a form that we discovered that he was giving stadium contracts to vendors that he had a financial relationship with.
We broke the story in 2019 after looking at Mercurio’s Form 700. He was forced to sell his shares in VenueNext because of the story. Mercurio later admitted to having a financial interest in another company, Visual Labs. He had to sell that stock, too.
Then, during the Red Box Bowl in 2020, it was discovered that another 49ers executive Al Guido was signing contracts involving public funds. Guido had a conflict of interest when he signed sponsorship deals.
The City tried to get Guido to comply with FPPC law. But he and the team ignored the request.
Last night, the City tried to update its requirement to update who should file a Form 700. It’s a routine item. It was on the consent calendar.
But 49er-supported councilmember Jain pulled it off consent. He said the 49ers sent in a letter objecting just minutes before the meeting. Interestingly, not everyone had seen or read the letter. But Jain had.
Then, 49er-supported councilmembers, Becker and Park argued that the City should give the 49ers more time. Park wanted to give them 30 days.
City Attorney Brian Doyle had some strong words about the 49ers stonewalling on the issue. He told the Council how he sent correspondence to 49ers attorneys last May asking for a response. They’ve provided no response for over 7 months. Then minutes before last night’s meeting they sent an email saying they have issues.
It was only after strong staff objections that Becker decided to limit the time the 49ers had to respond.
The Council decided, on a 6-1 vote, that the 49ers would have to respond to Doyle’s questions by January 29. Then, a staff report will be prepared with their explanation for the next Council meeting.
Councilmember Kathy Watanabe voted against the motion. She wanted the City to submit the information as is to the FPPC despite the 49ers’ objections.