The San Francisco 49ers and the city of Santa Clara continue to have problems. The latest involves an audit to consider whether public money has been improperly used for Levi’s Stadium operating costs. Santa Clara mayor Lisa Gillmor is claiming the team has refused to turn over certain documents for an on-going audit about game-day expenses and whether or not there is a violation of Measure J with regard to general fund money. She said this put the 49ers in breach, and if they did not cure that breach, the City Council would look to take back management of the stadium.
49ers VP of Communications Bob Lange said they had their initial meeting with the auditors last week, and, “told them we’d be happy to give them the documents they’re asking for.” In a statement to NBC Bay Area, the 49ers said the requested documents would be presented to the auditor on Monday.
Measure J, which was what got the ball rolling on financing and building the stadium stated that there would be no obligation from the city’s General Fund for stadium operating and maintenance. There have been arguments over things like who is paying police officers for security. Pat Nikolai is running for police chief, and has said some officers have come to him with concerns about violations of Measure J with regard to their pay. It is election season, so the current police chief is calling BS on that. I think it’s easiest just to assume everyone is full of crap and trying to get things more favorable in their direction.
Since the departure of Jamie Matthews as mayor of Santa Clara new mayor Lisa Gillmor has been a thorn in the side of the 49ers. Whereas Matthews was viewed as much more friendly to the 49ers (some would so too friendly), Gillmor has been a vocal opponent of the stadium and the team. It is not surprising this relationship has deteriorated the way it has.
There is currently an audit going on to determine who is paying for what, and whether or not money is owed to the city. A grand jury investigated complaints about it. They could not verify the complaints, but they recommended an audit because multiple stadium managers said “I don’t know” when asked if the city’s general funds were protected as required in Measure J.
The audit continues as we speak, and as mentioned above, the 49ers are expected to turn over some necessary documentation this coming week. The 49ers are saying they spoke to the auditors last week, and will be passing along the necessary information this week.
Based on the grand jury report, my guess is money will have to eventually be paid to the city for some of these many game-day expenses. I get why Lisa Gillmor would be making the threats she is making. She has been against this stadium, and has been concerned about the previously cozy relationship between the 49ers and Jamie Matthews. She sees something that seems amiss, and it is going to add to her concerns.
That being said, I also think she knows the political and PR games in play and is happy to take advantage of the opportunity as well. When speaking with the auditors at a city council meeting she asked, “Are we talking tens of thousands of dollars? Are we talking millions?” The auditors did not know, and that is what is being worked on. I get her frustration, but I also think she’s grand-standing a little bit.
I don’t think we’re going to see the city of Santa Clara take back management of the stadium at this point. This relationship between the city and the team is not ending anytime soon. And it is not getting any prettier. There are allegations people within the organization are trying to influence the upcoming city election. I would not be surprised if Jed York and others are trying to get more favorable candidates on city council. That’s how lobbying and politics works. Unfortunately, money rules all.
I’ll be keeping an eye on the races in Santa Clara when November gets here. It is not “football related,” but it’s a fascinating exchange on the local political level. We hear all about the shadiness of national elections, but it can get nasty on the local level, and we’re seeing it in Santa Clara.