Golding's strategy of hitting up San Diego business interests for campaign cash "worked just fine for Pete Wilson," Gorton added. But Stockton multimillionaire and Chargers owner Alex Spanos, expected to play a big part in Golding's fundraising, is taking a low public profile. "One potential pitfall for Golding," Roll Call notes, "is the controversy swirling around her handling of a contract to expand the stadium where the Chargers play, a dispute that has made local headlines for months."
March 20, 1997
San Diego Reader
Over the past two years, Poway contractor Douglas Barnhart, along with 13 relatives and employees, has pumped $2745 into city councilwoman Barbara Warden's campaign war chest. During the same period, the Barnhart group gave a total of $2750 more to Warden's city council colleagues and City Attorney Casey Gwinn, adding up to one of the largest group donations to city hall politicos. Warden says the Barnhart money came to her because many Barnhart employees live in her district. Now comes word that earlier this month, only weeks after a judge ruled against putting the Chargers contract on the ballot, Barnhart and two associates were quietly awarded a no-bid, $125,000 city contract to provide "schematic drawings explaining how the Cantilevered Seating" at newly christened Qualcomm Stadium "will operate."
May 22, 1997
San Diego Reader
At a time when the city library budget is coming up short, taxpayers are picking up the tab for a variety of moving expenses run up by the Chargers coaching staff during the stadium expansion. Furniture rental for temporary trailer offices for staff and coaches is running $44,200. Renting the trailers themselves is costing $112,710. Building pedestrian ramps, decks, interior partitions, along with "miscellaneous accessories" for the trailers, ran $70,000. Installing phones and TV satellite gear cost $13,019.35, and taxpayers are forking over another $7750 for "voice and data communications" from an outfit called Teledata. Under standard city policy, none of the work was put out for public bid.
August 14, 1997
San Diego Reader
It was early May, and San Diego city manager Jack McGrory was worried. He and the city council had put city taxpayers on the hook for guaranteeing the sale of 60,000 seats for each Chargers game, and now he had to deliver.
But by May, McGrory knew he was in trouble. The general admission seats, which were the subject of the taxpayer guarantee, were not selling well at all, and the Chargers were spending their efforts marketing luxury suites and boxes not covered by the guarantee. A promised effort by the San Diego Chamber of Commerce to sell the seats had not materialized, and the San Diego International Sports Council, which had once promised to help sell the tickets, was now behind the scenes, demanding cash up front to get involved.
The solution? According to copies of electronic mail and other public records divulged by city hall last week under threat of legal action to enforce the state's public records disclosure act, McGrory hatched a secret plan: pay thousands of tax dollars to the Sports Council, even though the public had never been told of the costly scheme and the city council had never approved it, at least not in open session.
According to the records, during the early part of May, the pace was hectic and the direction was clear: get $15,000 to the Sports Council without delay and without notice to the public. There were no written proposals or consultations with others and no council hearings. Instead, McGrory first e-mailed his assistant Ernie Anderson on May 12, ordering him to come up with the funds.
"How do we get the Sports Council an advance to start their marketing efforts asap?" McGrory wrote Anderson at 2:24 in the afternoon of Monday, May 12.
"Do you have a number in mind?" Anderson wrote back at 5:00 p.m. the same day, asking McGrory to tell him how much money to come up with.
"15,000," McGrory responded at 9:13 that evening.
"Who is doing the footwork for you on this?" Anderson wrote McGrory at 6:03 p.m. the next day, May 13. "We need to put together an agreement, and as soon as that happens we'll give them the dough.... If I'm doing the footwork, who is the contact with the Sports Council, and what do we expect them to do?"
McGrory didn't answer Anderson's question about what the Sports Council was expected to do for its money. Instead, at 6:30, he wrote back: "Can you do it and deal with Bruce and Ky?" The reference to "Bruce" apparently was to Bruce Herring, another trusted McGrory aide often given top-secret fundraising projects, such as patching the huge funding holes created by last year's Republican convention. Ky apparently was Ky Snyder, the Sports Council's executive director.
Two days later, Anderson wired McGrory back with news of how things were going.
"fyi, I spoke with Ky and advised him we are going to contract with him during FY97 in the amount of $15,000 for marketing the Stadium. This is within our administrative authority to do and will not require Council action. It is NOT an advance of FY98 funding. We will finalize the contract and give him the money early next week. He said he will ACCELERATE his plans to accommodate that time frame."
On June 17, according to a copy of a memo in the City's records, Sports Council executive Ky Snyder provided Bruce Herring with a mixed report on the Sports Council's progress in selling the tickets.
"As we discussed at our last meeting, I have attached a copy of commitments pending and refusals in our marketing efforts. The main resistance to date is that medium-sized companies are not prepared to invest in blocks. We are having success in the payroll deduction area and believe this will create the most benefit in the long term."
As of today, the City has not revealed how much it will spend on the Sports Council or another marketing agent during fiscal year 1998, which began on the first of July. The City's Anderson says that the council has so far approved $150,000 for this fiscal year, although he isn't sure of the details. That amount, of course, is much less than the millions of dollars taxpayers may be forced to come up with if the marketing efforts are unsuccessful and a significant percentage of the 60,000-seat attendance guaranteed by the City does not materialize. McGrory has left that worry to his successors. He quit shortly after the Sports Council deal was revealed here in June.