Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox today accused the Chargers of deliberately withholding crucial information from the city and keeping the public “in the dark” about a report on the feasibility of building a stadium on the South Bay city’s waterfront.

The statements came in a call she made to me, after this post. And they followed a letter the mayor sent to the team making the same claims. All of it provoked an immediate — and somewhat insulting — response from the team deriding her and accusing her of not ever sincerely supporting the effort to help the team find a suitable alternative in the city.

Mark Fabiani and Cheryl Cox. Photo: Sam Hodgson

Chargers’ Special Counsel Mark Fabiani said the team did research the finances of a bay-front stadium and that it decided against writing a full report because it would have concluded such a deal was impossible in the current economic environment. Chargers representatives met with Chula Vista City Councilman John McCann to reveal their thoughts on it in November.

Cox said that decision — to only consult with McCann and not produce a report — amounted to keeping Chula Vista residents in the dark.

“If you keep something hidden or secret you impede decision-making, it reduces your options. If your options are reduced, you can’t make a deal,” Cox said.

Fabiani responded, blasting Cox and saying her sentiments didn’t matter because she is no longer an influential public official in her city.

“Mayor Cox is a typical politician. She says one thing in public and says and does very different things in private,” Fabiani said. “The mayor is a one-member minority on the City Council right now on most votes. I don’t know that her feelings, while important, really matter on the issue.”

And then he added a kicker: “Look, we’re not dealing with Richie Daley here.”

In her letter, Cox wrote that it was the team whose commitment to work with Chula Vista was in question.

“One has to question your seriousness about getting a transaction done when you do not reveal needed information to the City Manager, to the Mayor, to my colleagues and our staff,” Cox wrote to Fabiani.

In addition to Fabiani’s conversation with me, the Chargers also responded with a written statement of their own:

In reality, Mayor Cox has never really supported the Chargers. Mayor Cox long ago made clear that she favored the Gaylord project above all else, and she explicitly told the Chargers at a meeting on January 15, 2008 that she did not want any interference with her now-failed Gaylord effort. In the meantime, despite her occasional and perfunctory public statements on the topic, it is no secret Mayor Cox has privately bad-mouthed the Chargers to numerous people around San Diego County.

Fabiani also elaborated on the study the Chargers did about the potential financing of a waterfront stadium. He said that an analyst named Patrick Gibbons from GCI Advisors in Orange County concluded that if he were to write a report in November it would say simply that it would be impossible for the team or city to finance construction of a new stadium.

But Gibbons, Fabiani said, told the team they should wait to see how things changed in coming months. If, for example, the Gaylord Entertainment proposal to build a convention center and resort on the Chula Vista bay front fizzled out, there might be more opportunities available. The Gaylord proposal fell apart only weeks later.

Cox told me she was still committed to bringing the Chargers to Chula Vista or helping to persuade them from leaving the region. But she had to know what the Chargers knew about the feasibility of the project.

“It’s public land we’re talking about. If it’s a realistic option, we ought to know what the analysis is so we can move forward,” Cox said.


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