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In February, the Chargers revealed they were planning a new football stadium that would cost more than $1 billion to share with the Oakland Raiders in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson. Team officials said they’d been secretly negotiating with Carson leaders for at least a month prior to the announcement.
What did those negotiations consist of? Not a single email, text message, memo or anything on paper at all between the teams or the NFL and any elected official in Carson, according to city officials.
Less than a week after the Carson stadium news broke, we asked the city for any communications between Carson’s mayor or City Council members and the Chargers, Raiders or the league. We asked again after the city approved the new stadium at a Council meeting. Both times Carson’s attorneys requested multiple extensions of the state’s public records law before telling us twice that no records existed.
Carson is not saying that written communications between its elected officials and the Chargers, Raiders and league should be shielded from public view because they are part of real estate negotiations or other legitimate exemptions from the state’s records laws. No, they’re saying that there are literally zero electronic or paper communications between Carson’s elected officials and the NFL.
We find this hard to believe. So we sued Carson on May 27, asking a court to compel the city to turn over any documents that might exist. From the suit:
The city’s refusal to provide the records sought by Voice’s first two [public records] requests lacks any substantive or evidentiary justification and instead relies upon an unreasonable suspension of belief – namely, that a small city may interact with multi-billion dollar organizations like the NFL and the teams without the production of a single email, text message or letter, even those relating to public hearings which the city has already held in approving the stadium project without a vote of its citizenry and circumventing CEQA.
The suit may not ultimately yield any new documents. But we’ll keep you updated on the case.