Darrell Issa, Scott Peters, and Juan Vargas at Chargers' signature-drive rally, April 23, 2016
With the election little more than a week away, questions continue to bedevil San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer regarding the motives behind his deal with the Chargers to endorse the team's tax-subsidized downtown stadium and meeting complex.
Project opponents assert that the mayor, who has long had his eye on higher office, is feathering his own political nest with the prospect of big campaign money to come from the Chargers-owning Spanos family and the National Football League, whose longtime financial support of House member Darrell Issa is believed to have played a key role in getting the North County Republican congressman to support San Diego's hotel-room tax hike.
For his part, the mayor and his backers assert that he has wrangled concessions from the team that would protect the city's treasury, though those opposed to Measure C say that the Chargers can't be trusted to honor any off-ballot side deals not legally required by the initiative to be passed on by voters.
Now, it's been revealed that a series of private meetings between the Republican mayor and representatives of team owner Dean Spanos took place, showing that Faulconer and his city-hall staff met with Chargers representatives almost a month before the June election in which he won reelection without taking a public position on the stadium plan.
The belated information comes via a series of documents released by the city following a request made under the California Public Records Act for emails and other records related to Faulconer's endorsement deal with the Chargers.
The calendar entries represent the city's initial redacted response to the records act query, per an October 29 email from the city, which advises, "We are still reviewing emails related to this request."
The mayor's private May 10 meeting featured a high-ranking host of Chargers representatives, including chief financial officer Jeanne Bonk, special advisor Jeffrey Pollack, and Fred Maas, the political operative who has been running the team's $5-million-plus ballot effort. Tim Romer, an executive with Wall Street financial giant Goldman Sachs, which handles the team's stadium finances, also attended, as did other "Goldman reps."
The session followed by less than a month a letter to the Chargers Faulconer released to the public April 15 asking for more details about the team's ballot measure, then out for signatures.
According to Pollack's profile on the Chargers website, "His role with the team includes crafting new strategies to help grow the Chargers brand, while also helping to explore new opportunities for a state-of-the-art stadium for the franchise.”
Faulconer was joined at the meeting by chief of staff Stephen Puetz and deputy chief Mike Hansen, and debt management director Lakshmi Kommi, among others. No representatives of the city council or its staff were involved, per the documents.
Faulconer organized another meeting on June 3, according to a calendar entry. Most of the prior participants, minus the Goldman reps, were joined by Mike McDowell, a longtime go-between for local hotel moguls and city hall, and Aimee Faucett, top aide to GOP ex-mayor Jerry Sanders, who now runs the chamber of commerce, which subsequently endorsed the Chargers deal. Scott Hermes, general manager of the Westin San Diego Gaslamp Quarter and area manager of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, also was on the invite list.
Following that get-together, a series of Chargers-only meetings with the mayor ensued.
The documents show a July 14 meeting between Puetz and Maas; on July 22, a conference between Faulconer, Puetz, and Maas was scheduled. An August 12 meeting between Faulconer and Puetz was accompanied by a note saying, "Contact: Fred Maas."
Another behind-the-scenes confab with Chargers representatives, held August 31, included Faulconer, along with mayoral staffers Puetz and Hansen, and Maas and Bonk from the Chargers. On September 13, it was Maas of the Chargers meeting with Faulconer, Puetz, and Hansen, according to the documents.
Whether the city releases further records of the mayor's dealings with the Chargers before next week's election remains to be seen, but the calendar material has already raised questions regarding how closely the mayor's office has adhered to the city's lobbying disclosure requirements. According to city records, none of the individuals listed on the calendar have registered to lobby on behalf of the Chargers.
That distinction belongs to the team's special counsel Mark Fabiani, whose most recent disclosure filing, covering the third quarter of this year and dated October 10, says that he had no lobbying contacts on behalf of the Chargers during the period.