With the Chargers on the brink of departing San Diego for Los Angeles, some local politicos have reportedly been busy proffering sizable gifts of public money to entice the team to stay in town.
But over at the county of San Diego, there are no records of a much-rumored nine-figure cash offer of financial support from county, city, and state taxpayers.
That's the word from senior deputy county counsel Bill Pettingill, via a January 9 response to a January 2 public records act request seeking documentation of "the proposal or proposals, as described by Kevin Acee in a 1-2-17 column in the San Diego Union-Tribune, re an offer from the city of San Diego and other governmental entities, including the county of San Diego, to the San Diego Chargers, NFL, et al regarding construction of a new professional football stadium in San Diego."
Said the U-T column in question: "In the final days of 2016, San Diego officials presented to the Chargers what both sides deem to be a real best offer for public contribution toward construction of a new stadium."
Added the paper, "The City of San Diego, along with the county and San Diego State, has made what the Chargers believe is their final collective offer. Significantly, the Chargers believe that money is real, as opposed to the funding proposed early last year. However, the $375 million those entities say they can provide is more than $100 million less than what the Chargers were seeking."
The U-T's account has since been picked up and repeated by sports writers around the country.
On Sunday, January 8, the U-T's Dan McSwain waded into the fray, writing, "Last week, the rumor mill said that [San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer’s] 'offer' was joined by $75 million (down from $150 million last year) endorsed by county Supervisor Ron Roberts and $100 million newly proposed by Elliot Hirshman, president of San Diego State University."
Presumably, anything resembling an authentic city, county, and state offer of the size reported would be written down someplace, but, per Pettigill's email, "We have found no records responsive to your request in the supervisor’s office or other County departments."
The City of San Diego has yet to respond to a similar request for documents regarding its reputed offer to Chargers honcho Dean Spanos.
Meanwhile, SDSU's Hirshman, known as the $492,000 man for the pay and benefits he rakes in each year as the state university system's highest-paid president, is keeping mum.
Last March 3, Hirshman told the board of the university-controlled Campanile Foundation — dedicated to raising huge sums for the school from wealthy individuals and local special interests — that, "San Diego State has two tracks to consider."
According to minutes of that meeting, he said the choices were to "a.) Partner with the Chargers to support a new stadium in downtown San Diego," and "b.) Partner with a major-league soccer franchise and share a stadium in Mission Valley."
Added the meeting record, "There was discussion about both options and what is best for the football program and the university."
At the next Campanile board meeting, held June 9, "President Hirshman provided a brief stadium update and discussion followed," says a cryptic reference in Campanile's minutes.
Hirshman has long coveted the Mission Valley site for university expansion and, critics contend, a grandiose stadium and sports entertainment hub that ultimately could set state taxpayers back a billion dollars or more.
"The San Diego Chargers’ recent decision to leave Mission Valley and pursue a downtown stadium creates this critical opportunity," Hirshman blogged last April 5.
"We see a future in Mission Valley with community parks and recreational opportunities, low to medium-density housing, a small number of research/technology transfer facilities and, possibly, a stadium — one on a significantly smaller scale than Qualcomm Stadium — that could be shared by San Diego State, a Major League Soccer franchise and other community partners."
Added Hirshman (who has yet to elaborate on any of the current speculation about his purported commitment to a Chargers deal), "These possibilities will, of course, raise many detailed questions. Who would own the redeveloped site? Who would be the development partners? How would the redevelopment be financed? The blunt answer to these questions at this moment is that we don’t know."
The Campanile Foundation, which acts as a key channel for Hirshman's fundraising from local developers and hotel owners, has come under scrutiny by auditors for the California State University system, who have unearthed a series of financial irregularities, accompanied by failures by boardmembers to comply with state transparency laws requiring filing of personal financial disclosure statements.
"The campus had not developed a written fund‐raising policy or established a written delegation of authority for fund‐raising events; fund‐raising events were not always reviewed and approved by a delegated authority prior to the events; and revenues for certain fund‐raising events were incorrectly reported on IRS Form 990," according to the August 9 document.
"Six of 34 board members had not signed conflict‐of‐interest statements, and six board members had not properly marked the box indicating whether or not a conflict existed for calendar year 2015," says the audit.
"Nine of 33 board members had not signed conflict‐of‐interest statements, and 11 board members had not properly marked the box indicating whether or not a conflict existed for CY 2016."