By Brian Doyle
Five years ago when I agreed to be Santa Clara’s City Attorney, I did so because as a longtime City resident with decades of experience in municipal law, I wanted to fight for my hard-working neighbors who appeared to have been getting the short end of the stick from Jed York, the CEO of the 49ers.
In the course of my tenure I learned that the 49ers had been hiding virtually all of the Stadium Authority’s financial records from the Mayor and Council and were advising them that they should reduce the rent for the Stadium by $160 million. That Council did not believe them and filed for arbitration which the City won. With my advice, the City gained a net victory of $170 million and recouped its attorneys fees.
That Council under Mayor Lisa Gillmor then demanded the books that the 49ers were supposed to be keeping about Stadium Authority revenue and expenses. The 49ers reacted by filing the first of half a dozen legal actions to prevent the public officials from getting access to the Stadium Authority’s records: round one of coverup.
Through the course of the lawsuits and arbitrations, we learned that the 49ers:
● Violated state conflict of interest law that could potentially void millions of dollars in expenses paid to themselves
● Improperly procured contracts in a noncompetitive way, requiring them to repay the Stadium Authority once they had been caught
● gross non-compliance with prevailing wage laws, and
● persistent violation of state health and safety codes.
In apparent reaction to what I was uncovering, the 49ers began saying that they wanted me gone. On September 1 of last year, council members Raj Chahal, Karen Hardy, Suds Jain, Anthony Becker and Kevin Park terminated me (without cause), leaving the City without a permanent City Attorney for almost a year now.
Over this past year, these same five council members have met dozens of times with the 49ers behind closed doors, hearing only the 49ers’ advice on how to put a stop to the City’s efforts at obtaining the Stadium’s financial records.
Now, suddenly there is a rush to consider a proposal to “settle” the litigation regarding the Management Agreement. What happened to all of the self-dealing, conflicts of interest, and cooking the books that motivated council members Chahal and Hardy to vote not once, but twice to terminate the Management Agreement?
The 49ers’ motivation is clear: cover it all up and keep managing the Stadium in their interest. What would motivate any council member to allow this to happen?
The 49ers’ advice about the rent re-set in 2016 was totally wrong, and if it had been taken would have been a financial disaster for the Stadium Authority. Their advice to the current Council is equally wrong.
Rather than even consider the 49ers’ blatant attempt to cover up their corruption, Council members Chahal and Hardy must explain to the public why they would consider reversing their votes to terminate the Management Agreement. And each council member should be transparent about their settlement discussions with the 49ers.
There are no time constraints on the Council making a decision on this. There are way too many questions important to Santa Clara voters for the Council to agree to cover up what has been happening under the 49ers’ management.