Emails Show Snapdragon Deal Left Key Financial Official in the Dark
San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders has finally released documents responding to the California public records act request we made on December 12 of last year regarding his then-incipient "Snapdragon Stadium" promotional name-change gambit.
As we were first to report last month, a December 7 memo from city attorney Jan Goldsmith held that the promotion — which sources say was done by Sanders as a favor to his longtime political backers at Qualcomm Inc., including founder Irwin Jacobs — violated city law.
Since then, Goldsmith has issued a follow-up opinion, holding that the Qualcomm deal would have to be taken up by the city council and retroactively ratified before it could be regarded as legal; the council has yet to consider the matter.
The documents released by Sanders late Wednesday afternoon in reponse to our December request show that the name-change plans were in motion at least as early as October 28 of last year, when Patrick Connors, president of San Diego's Gravitate Sports Marketing, sent an email to the city's stadium manager, Mike McSweeney.
It was labeled "FW: Snapdragon -Game signage change out/CONFIDENTIAL"
By November 18, a problem had cropped up regarding the legality of the project, prompting an email from McSweeney to chief operating officer Jay Goldstone, a top Sanders aide.
As Goldsmith's legal opinion would eventually point out, plans to put giant Snagdragon signs around the outside of the stadium would violate the city's so-called off-premise sign ban, which prohibits signage touting products that are not sold where the signs are located.
But McSweeney told Goldstone he had come up with an answer, and that the city's code enforcement staff had signed off on it.
"Jay, We're good to go. Spoke with Chris Larson just now.
"Many thanks to [director of the city's Development Services Department] Kelly [Broughton] on this.
"Essentially, if game attendees can download the app from their smartphones in the stadium-the product is sold within the stadium making it compliant with the ordinance."
"Thanks for your help. "
Replied Goldstone: "Wow. That is creative. I like that kind of thinking"
In an email dated November 23, Connors, a consultant on Qualcomm's name-change project, praised the stadium manager for his cooperation and offered to reward him with dinner.
"You have truly been a life savior for our project with Qualcomm!" said Connors. "Our drawings have been sent to the engineers and returned safely to your offices. "
"Hopefully our sign ordinance issue is behind us thanks to your efforts," said Connors.
"As a small token of our appreciation, let's grab our wife's and have a nice 'Holiday' dinner... Let's compare calendars...
"Finally, I would hope you don't mind if we give you credit to the mayor for going above and beyond in our recap and conversations.
"Happy Thanksgiving my friend!"
By December 2, Connors had much of the engineering work done:
"Hot off the press..." he emailed McSweeney.
"Please find our next round of plans from the engineer for our East Scoreboard Truss framing. "
"Thanks again for sourcing the drawings the engineers needed to insure we are doing this safely and correctly, while returning the building back to you in its original position. They now have everything they need. "
On December 5, Connors emailed McSweeney again, this time saying that he needed some extra equipment and hoped to get it from the city.
"Would it be possible for Chris from Kleege and Maria from SD Lighting [to] get access tomorrow around 11am to get some additional measurements on the East scoreboard?
"Any chance we could borrow a lift?"
McSweeney replied: "No problem on coming over. Where will the lift go? Will the operator be licensed'? What kind of lift? I will not have a man to operate it for Kleege or SD Lighting."
On December 6, the day before Goldsmith issued his opinion that the name change was illegal, Qualcomm marketing executive Cynthia Hurley Ray wrote McSweeney saying that she had been working with the mayor's office and the project was well under way.
"In case Pat hasn't said it enough- THANK YOU THANK YOU. We continue to chip away at all the details and make progress," Ray said. "We will all need vacations in January!
"I just wanted to make sure you knew that we have been in contact with Julie Dubick to connect with the mayor and have asked him to participate in the press conference on the morning of the 16."
"Also, see attached for the latest mock-ups of our signage artwork, Are you feeling confident with our plan to put these up?"
McSweeney replied to Ray the next day, December 7, the date of Goldsmith's memo:
"Sorry for the late reply. We' re moving forward on all points. Talk to you at 3:30 today."
Two days later, on December 9, Qualcomm government affairs director Monique Rodriguez, injected a note of caution, emailing that they should document their lobbying contacts with the mayor's staff:
"Also hate to be a stickler but please keep track of all contacts with you have had with the Mayor's staff including emails, phone calls and in person conversations they are all reportable on our quarterly lobbying disclosure.
"Can you tell me who your contact at the stadium was I need to confirm whether or not he/she is a reportable contact as well. You gotta love City bureaucracy :) "
The same day, two days after Goldsmith's memo cautioning that the name change promotion was illegal, Rachel Shira, executive assistant to Sanders, emailed Rodriguez and mayoral chief of staff Julie Dubick:
"Per my email this morning, Mayor Sanders is on board, Thanks."
On December 16, came an email from Mary Lewis, the city's chief financial officer, raising questions about the value of the Snapdragon deal to the city. It was addressed to Alex Roth, Aimee Faucett, Natasha Collura, and city chief operating officer Jay Goldstone.
She had heard about the name change after it was announced to the press.
"ls the City being compensated for promoting a specific Qualcomm product?" Lewis wrote. "Is this above and beyond the original naming agreement? This kind of product exposure is worth a considerable amount of money and was this part of the negotiation?"
Faucett fowarded the message on to mayoral chief of staff Julie Dubick.
On the morning of December 19, McSweeney emailed Connors that he had been given approval to sign an agreement with Qualcomm.
The document, released by Sanders's office to us last month, carried an effective date of December 16 and required Qualcomm to pay the city a $1000 promotional fee.
"Haven't been able to open the file from last night yet. Need some IT help today. Thx. For sending," McSweeney wrote.
Then he added: "BTW-Cynthia (or you) sent some unbelievable cupcakes to our staff from Sprinkles! Many many thanks! Our staff is now in a collective sugar coma."
Connors had emailed McSweeney just minutes before to express his pleasure that television sportscasters were already plugging Snapdragon as a result of the name change.
"Check out the clip from last nights game...AI and Chris all over Snapdragon and the signage!
"Let chat today on the East Scoreboard options we discussed after socializing with Jim and your legal folks."
Though the emails are not entirely clear about what actually happened, transformation of Qualcomm Stadium into Snapdragon Stadium resulted in some unexpected problems, and, apparently, expenses.
"Update on the Main gate sign," McSweeney emailed Connors on December 19. "Our crew didn't finish the install of the transformer until 10 pm Friday night. Without the transformer, we wouldn't have had electricity in a large portion of the stadium.
"For instance-no cable cam for the broadcast. It was a major issue for us. Everyone of our tradesmen worked on the removal and installation of a replacement transformer.
"On Sat. they went out to finish the Main gate repair.
"Once out there, they discovered the entire ballast of the sign needed to be replaced. This will take a couple of days to get done.
"I suggest we lamp the sign with a portable light if we don't get it done in time. I'll meet with our electrician this am to come up with a solution. I' ll keep you posted."
We found no records in the collection we received from the mayor to document the $1000 payment from Qualcomm as required by its contract with the city or payments from Qualcomm to defray the city's setup costs.
But on January 5, the day of our story about Goldsmith's opinion regarding the illegality of the Snapdragon name change, stadium manager McSweeney wrote to Connors.
The email was labled "Snapdragon - Game signage change out /CONFIDENTIAL"
It said: "Pat, We'll have an invoice soon on our electricians hours and perhaps some incidentals.
"Where would we send it to?
The same day, Connors emailed McSweeney about our story that morning regarding Goldsmith's opinion.
It was headlined "'Snapdragon Stadium' Was Illegal, City Attorney Memo Says."
"Have you seen this?" he asked.
"What are your people saying? Will call you.
Ten minutes earlier, Qualcomm's marketing person, Cynthia Ray, had sent Connors a copy of our story, saying:
"This headline is not going over well here today...."
More like this:
- How Qualcomm got a UCSD institute named after itself — Nov. 14, 2013
- City Attorney Says Snapdragon Deal Void — Jan. 17, 2012
- The Snapdragon Stadium Gambit — Jan. 11, 2012
- Sanders Responds to Snapdragon Records Request — Jan. 6, 2012
- "Snapdragon Stadium" Was Illegal, City Attorney Memo Says — Jan. 5, 2012