If City Attorney Jan Goldsmith had gotten his way, the mayor would have said nothing when his stadium task force presented its report last month.

The big public reveal of the task force’s ideas — the largest gathering of media for a report’s release I’ve ever seen — would not have happened either.

That was one of the requests the city attorney made in an email to Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani April 28. After several weeks of haggling for it, the mayor’s office agreed to release the email and responses to it.

You can read it here.


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The emails demonstrate the city attorney was nervous about the media attention the mayor’s task force and Chargers were getting.

“There have been concerns raised by the parties about the high level of distractions that could interfere with the ability to have fruitful discussions,” Goldsmith wrote to the mayor’s team and Fabiani before offering a series of proposals:

 Negotiations between the city and county’s official consultants on the matter would start immediately, trumping the task force’s work.

 The Chargers and city would freeze out the media. “It is OK to express the desire to keep the Chargers in San Diego and state that the parties are talking, but beyond that, let’s keep a lid on it as far as media comments,” Goldsmith wrote.

 And crucially, the task force would also be asked to simply turn in its report to the mayor, release it to the public and not say a word about it. “If they violate the understanding I will be authorized to issue a statement explaining the request that was made and express disappointment.”

 When the task force turned in its report, the mayor would do nothing but thank them.

The Chargers immediately agreed. Both the team and Goldsmith seem to be dismissive of the contribution of the mayor’s task force, called the Citizens Stadium Advisory Group.

The mayor’s team, however, insisted that the task force be allowed to complete its work first and that it would be difficult to ask the group to stay quiet.

“That is not conducive to an open relationship with the press and public,” wrote Stephen Puetz, the mayor’s chief of staff. Puetz also reveals that the Chargers canceled a meeting with the mayor after a task force member appeared on sports radio.

Depending on how you look at it, the suggestions from Goldsmith could be seen as genuine efforts to fill a leadership vacuum and reset the city’s relationship with the Chargers. Or they undermined the mayor’s position and exposed the city attorney as collaborating too closely with the Chargers.

The Chargers quickly agreed with Goldsmith that talks need not wait for the task force.

“The emails show that the city attorney’s office was trying to get the parties together in one room for discussions. We are pleased that the parties are now meeting,” said the city attorney’s spokesman, Gerry Braun, in a statement.

The most important part of the emails is that question of timeline. The Chargers and city attorney appear to think waiting for the task force was a waste of time. The mayor’s spokesman pointed out to me today that nothing got delayed and the Chargers owner and mayor did end up meeting. But negotiators the city hired were put on hold.

The question of speed has dogged the mayor for nearly six months.

During his state of the city address in January, the mayor initially envisioned the task force as working until September or October. But when the Chargers announced they were working with the Raiders to build a stadium in Carson, near Los Angeles, the task force agreed to rapidly speed up its work.

It still wasn’t fast enough for the Chargers. Once the city and county hired professional negotiators, Fabiani told me, the team would have preferred to begin.

“At the time the city attorney made his offer, the Chargers thought that starting talks immediately with the city’s experts was a good idea — and now, in hindsight, given everything that’s happened, it certainly seems that the city attorney’s idea was correct,” Fabiani wrote to me in an emailed statement.

Fabiani declined to elaborate but he and the NFL’s vice president, Eric Grubman, have previously discussed the accelerated timeline they’re managing as the Chargers, Rams and Raiders establish plans in the Los Angeles area. The race to be the team or one of two in Los Angeles appears to not be one the Chargers want to lose.

NFL owners are scheduled to meet in August to discuss the plans in L.A., San Diego, Oakland and St. Louis. “The next owners meeting had been set for October, but with the potential for a franchise — or three — moving to L.A., an additional meeting has been scheduled,” wrote the L.A. Times.

If owners are intent on selecting a team to take the Los Angeles market by the New Year, it’s very hard to see how the city could provide certainty on all the things the Chargers and NFL are demanding.

The mix of public-private funding options outlined by the mayor’s task force is probably workable. But there remain significant questions about two major issues: When, to whom and for how much the city could sell land around Qualcomm Stadium. And when a public vote could occur.

In other words, in addition to demanding a big public subsidy for the new stadium, the Chargers are demanding that it happen very soon and that its funding be much more certain than it realistically can be in that time.

Even, for instance, if the city were to immediately put the land for sale around Qualcomm Stadium, it’s unclear who would pay the $225 million or more for it without zoning changes. And even if someone would, it’s not clear why much of that money, if not all of it, would actually belong to the city’s water department and couldn’t be used to fund a new stadium.

At the same time, if there’s a chance that a vote of the people could throw out the plan the city, county and Chargers create, then such a vote would have to happen very soon to conform to this timeline from the NFL. It’s difficult to picture how that comes together.

The timeline, of course, may be impossible to meet by design.

Update: The mayor’s communications director, Matt Awbrey, sent in this statement: “This email shows the mayor’s office and city attorney made many attempts to get both parties together. We are pleased that meetings are now happening.”

    This article relates to: Chargers Stadium, Government, Must Reads

    Written by Scott Lewis

    I'm Scott Lewis, the editor in chief of Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at scott.lewis@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0527 and follow me on Twitter (it's a blast!): @vosdscott.

    27 comments
    Justin Peniche
    Justin Peniche

    Who is Stephen Puetz and why doesn't the mayor return his own emails? The city via the mayor has expressed displeasure with having to deal with Mark Fabiani rather than dealing with Dean Spanos directly yet he/they allow Mr. Puetz to express his opinions on behalf of the mayor. Does he really think the city attorney or the Chargers point man on stadium issues give a damn what the mayor's chief of staff thinks? This is like if my wife and I tried to settle a marital dispute through our children.

    FrontPorch
    FrontPorch subscriber

    It is hard to view Mr. Goldsmith's conduct as a "genuine effort to fill a leadership vacuum."  He uses his public position to accomplish secrecy in order to speed negotiations for something to which the people of this city have not agreed.  It is a shame to think Mr. Goldsmith, breathing in the heady aroma of high-level importance, has not even considered that the tax burdens he wants us to bear -- whether by direct payments or by forbearance of other city necessities -- may not be in the best interests of the people he serves.  His failure to disclose a non-privileged public record more closely resembles a genuine effort to avoid his responsibilities as a public servant.

    Matty Azure
    Matty Azure subscriber

    Appreciate you confirming that Jan is a clown.

    Signed,

    Ringling Brother

    Marc Davis
    Marc Davis subscriber

    The City Attorney slithers around downtown politics like a snake. A slimy snake at that. Ran for office stating "I am not interested in politics." Funny just like a politician he has gone back on his own word. Has anybody followed up on his email scam lately? Nope! Sounds a bit like the Hilary email program. Where are all the right wingers on this? Has anybody at VOSD really looked at this man record in the court room? Nope! Has anybody accounted on the tax payer dollars that have been waisted on his incompetent work and his political agenda that has cost the tax payers? Nope! The past two clowns have cost tax payer millions in damage more than that have saved us. They cover for politicians and the games played at city hall and now we see slither into the snake holes of the wealthy business owners as well. Shameful !

    Arizona Bread
    Arizona Bread subscriber

    By “effort to fill a leadership vacuum” are you suggesting, acknowledging or pointing out that, at least for those paying attention, it’s becoming increasing clear Faulconer is an empty suit?

    barb graham
    barb graham subscriber

    "The mix of public-private funding options outlined by the mayor’s task force is probably workable. "


    Really? Putting the taxpayers on the hook to the tune of, what? A billion dollars? For a stadium we were assured would cost no public money at all?


    People of San Diego, if you're tired of city services being cut back, ask the representative you elected why we can afford a billion dollar toybox for some rich team owner when our infrastructure continues to deteriorate? Do you WANT this thing jammed down your throat? If not, you'd better speak out now!

    Steven Greer
    Steven Greer subscriber

    Great job VOSD for fighting the good fight with Goldsmith, and not rubbing it in his face afterwards.

    Your organization is a class act.

    mike johnson
    mike johnson subscriber

    Of course Fabani wants the talks to begin right away with or without Goldsmith opinion. If the Rams move to Los Angles. That means the Charger would be the only team allowed to move into Carson. The NFL would not allow three teams. One team cannot support a 1.6 billion stadium in Carson.  Plus hardly anyone in Los Angles cares about the Chargers. They will draw for a couple years. Then the attendance will fall off to 45,000-50,000.


    As usual Goldsmith with his political spin is worthless. It also too bad we can't get rid of the County District Attorney on term limits.


    Maybe the Rams can move to San Diego if Spanos goes to Carson.

    Dean Plassaras
    Dean Plassaras

    @mike johnson The idea of the team moving to Carson (or any other place in LA) is patently absurd.


    As far as the claim of desire for earlier negotiations, no one including the city has the ostensible authority to begin negotiations lacking the support of the people. The city can't negotiate anything against the wishes of its people. Doing so in an unauthorized manner would have blown in its face within  a very short order.

    DavidM
    DavidM subscriber

    @mike johnson  You said, "It also too bad we can't get rid of the County District Attorney on term limits."  What does Bonnie Dumanis have to do with this?

    Matthew DeVol
    Matthew DeVol

    Here we go again, about to be taken advantage of by self-serving business interests. City of San Diego leaders have a long history of being duped by developers and other business interests, but always at the taxpayer's expense.

    City leaders should stick to providing city services for which we employ them, and not serve as the rubes these business folks take them for (see Jan Goldsmith), because we always get the very raw end of the business deal. Hey, politicians get government jobs, because they don't do well in business. Hence, why would we let them negotiate on our behalf?

    Larry Christensen
    Larry Christensen subscriber

    Goldsmith is in the Chargers pocket.  I will gladly help pack the moving vans for this NFL mafia team!  We have almost 4 billion in infrastructure problems in this city and we are being held hostage by the spanos gang.

    Don Wood
    Don Wood subscriber

    Goldsmith is a former north county mayor, who was appointed as a judge, then moved into the City of San Diego in order to run for city attorney. He is a politician who knows how to spin PR, and often practices those skills more than he does any legal skills he

    may have. I hope the voters do a better job of evaluating the candidates when Goldsmith leaves office and a new city attorney needs to be elected than they did the last time.

    Sam Ward
    Sam Ward subscribermember

    Nixonian.

    Robert Cohen
    Robert Cohen subscriber

    Is Jan Goldsmith the city attorney or is he a public relations flak?

    Dean Plassaras
    Dean Plassaras

    @Chris Brewster Since when a city attorney is supposed to be a politician? If an effing city attorney is acting as a politician then who the eff is doing the city's legal work?


    Are you confusing people's employee with politician? Because they are quite different in nature.

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Mr. Plassaras: So long as the City of San Diego Charter states that the City Attorney is an elected official, the incumbent will always be a politician by nature and that individual's legal approach will be colored by political beliefs. Conversely, the County Board of Supervisors appoints their legal advisor. That approach removes independence from the position (inasmuch as the County Counsel will endeavor to do the bidding of the Board of Supervisors), but also avoids the possibility that the legal advice will adjusted according to the individual's political beliefs. The City system has given us the dramas of Mike Aguirre and Jan Goldsmith. It's the nature of the beast.

    Dean Plassaras
    Dean Plassaras

    @Chris Brewster Judges are elected too. Do you expect judges to act as politicians or do you require that judges administer the law and promote a sense of justice in society?


    Because it seems to me that judges and city attorneys elected by a public vote are expected to precisely be apolitical in order to do their job right. Any clown violating such covenant with society ought to be thrown in jail.

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Mr. Plassaras: Like the Supreme Court for example, where political ideology never enters the picture? Like you, I believe the City Attorney should approach the job apolitically. So long as the position is an elected one, that is unlikely to happen. As for local judges, although they are elected less frequently and in a less politically charged way, political ideology sometimes enters into the picture. It shouldn't. You can't jail people for approaching a legal issue through the lens of their personal ideology.