Glendale mayor seeks to overturn Coyotes lease after email shows councilmembers talked in secret

It’s baaaaaaaaaaack!

Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers on Monday asked the state attorney general to investigate a previously undisclosed meeting of City Council members and an Arizona Coyotes attorney last June, days before the council approved a $225 million agreement with the team…

Violations of the Open Meeting Law can rescind actions taken by elected officials, which could potentially void Glendale’s deal with the team, which was then called the Phoenix Coyotes.

It’s been just slightly over a year since the Arizona Coyotes signed a new 15-year lease where the city of Glendale will pay them $15 million a year to play hockey in the arena that Glendale built for them. (They were the Phoenix Coyotes then, but as part of the lease the team owners agreed to change its name. But not to “Glendale Coyotes,” that’d be crazy.) It was one of the most generous sports deals in history, and only passed after councilmember Sammy Chavira made a last-second switch, so if it turns out that the whole thing was illegal, that’d be kind of a big deal.

Now, Mayor Weiers opposed the lease deal, so it’s not entirely unsurprising that he’s looking into trying to undo it. But according to emails obtained by the Arizona Republic, the evidence is kind of damning: Councilmember Gary Sherwood emailed councilmember Manny Martinez that he and councilmember Yvonne Knaack “spent over an hour with [incoming Coyotes attorney] Nick Wood last night,” and that “Sammy [Chavira] is already on board as he was with us last night.” Adding self-incrimincation to injury, Sherwood added, “Manny, please delete this email after you’ve read it.”

(Asked about this by the Republic, Sherwood defended holding secret discussions outside of public view by saying that he and Knaack only spoke with Wood over the phone, then spoke with Martinez and Chavira later. Which would still likely be a violation of the state Open Meeting Law, but hey, it worked for Cobb County.)

We’re still a long way from the Coyotes deal coming close to being overturned — among other things, even if last year’s vote turns out to be illegal, the council could just vote to reaffirm the new lease, this time without any hanky-panky. But if nothing else, this means we have more Glendale craziness to look forward to, which is always fun.

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18 comments on “Glendale mayor seeks to overturn Coyotes lease after email shows councilmembers talked in secret

  1. Between this and the Broward County officials looking to see whether they could afford to tell the Panthers to take a hike, it makes me wonder whether NHL-level hockey really can survive south of the 35th parellel.

  2. @SierraSpartan The California teams are at an all-time high right now (though it sounds like San Jose keeps bleeding money). Tampa Bay, Carolina, Dallas, and Nashville are competent NHL sunbelt franchises too.

    Arizona and Florida should relocate though, it’s just not working in either market.

  3. Nashville is receiving huge subsidies.

    It’s really not about geography or average temperature though, it’s about whether or not a city has any interest in the product. As Dave says, LA and Dallas have been good markets. San Jose has been very strong also.

    The problem is the 4-6 teams that are in locations that have no interest and, after 20 years, it seems never will.

    Get them out of there… whether the failing franchises are in the sunbelt or in allegedly hockey mad central Canada doesn’t matter…. what matters is whether the market in question will support the club. There’s no reason in the world that hockey fans in Toronto, New York or LA should be paying extra to fund money losing operations in Glendale, Nashville, Florida and Columbus.

  4. Glad to hear Weiers finally found his conscience… but it is a little late.

    It may be that Glendale council could declare the deal null and void because of the open meetings law. But it is difficult for me to see how this would matter to the club’s new (heavily subsidized) owners. Gosbee could simply say “This is the deal we agreed to, and if you don’t live up to it we’ll see you in court” (or more likely, demand a lease break fee from the city that would allow him to move immediately… or at least as soon as the new arena in Quebec city is finished, or the one in Seattle is approved).

    Once an elected body approves a deal – even one as egregious and pernicious as this one – the leaseholder has the right to expect it to be honoured. Some councillors might be jailed (yeah, right, just as many will go as did scumbag thief bankers in 2009…), but I don’t see how the deal itself gets cancelled without a major payout to Gosbee (who, frankly, doesn’t need the money…)

  5. Even Winnipeg receives subsidies so this is not just an isolated issue with Florida and Arizona.Tampa Bay has been very successful and Nashville draws pretty well. According to LeBlanc, they are on plan for the recovery even though the city’s (parking) revenues were below plan but a lot of people aren’t surprised that people used the cheaper parking in the area vs. the Coyotes parking. To me the challenge with the Panthers and Coyotes is location of the arena in Sunrise and Glendale, particularly for weekday games. If I put a URL in here I think the service will block me but take a look at these maps of AZ and FL nhltoseattle(dotcom)/2014/05/25/population-density-and-nhl-arenas-seattle-vs-bellevue/ Just seems like midweek games would be closer to where people live and work.

  6. FYI, single URLs are fine, it’s posting more than one that gets you caught in moderation. (Though I’ll eventually approve those as well once I see they’re not spam.)

  7. I guess all the crooks will have sweet NHL jobs after they lose their council seats in the next election. While holding on to their full government pensions.

  8. A couple things. here is the Az case law as it apply’s to open meeting violations:

    The “legal action” actually took place in the open council meeting. If you read the court case, even if an open meeting violation did take place, it doesnt overturn the “legal action” that took place in an open meeting.

    The Arizona Central and Arizona Republic did not do any research into the law and the remedies as they have been applied by the Arizona courts. Papers from all over the country picked up the story that didnt present all the facts.

    I also think that even though we all know the Mayors motives, you may be hard pressed to find where he actually said anything about the deal not being vaild.

    It apears the deal is in very little danger of being overthrown.

  9. By the way. Violations of the Az open meeting laws are civil violations.

    JOHN BLADEN………..please check the attendance figures for the KIngs for the first 16 years they were in LA. You will find they are not much better than Phx. 16 years in the big picture is not a lot of time.

    Next, In Winnipeg, the TNSE gets 12.9M a year in subsidies. This is not just a Sun Belt issue.

  10. I always like calling out to folks that 10 years ago the Coyotes averaged higher attendance than Blackhawks, Bruins and Penguins. It’s easy to point at attendance as an indicator of a failing franchise but they ebb and flow all the time. Like it or not, Glendale is going to have to live with this deal. Having an actual owner should give it a better chance at succeeding than the prior 4 years under NHL ownership.

  11. James: The Coyotes have been in the Phx area for 18 years, not 16. Do the math. Before them, several minor/non-NHL teams were in place (including the Roadrunners, the original of which traces it’s history back to 1967 – the same year the Kings took the ice in Los Angeles). Phoenix has a long history of disinterest in professional and minor league hockey.

    JB: It’s true that there have been times when the attendance of what we consider major clubs has faltered. In the case of the Bruins and Blackhawks, the fanbase’s hatred for ownership ran so deep many no longer bought tickets. I know fans in Chicago who were, to be blunt, waiting for Bill Wirtz to die before they would go to the arena. He did, of course.

    In the case of the Kings, Blackhawks, Bruins and Penguins, periods of competitiveness (and championships) followed a very long stretch of bad hockey and incompetent management. Competitiveness helps. In the case of the Coyotes, they have never really been an awful team… Maloney and others in the hockey side of management have done a great job of putting together competitive teams under very difficult circumstances.

    Unless the two of you are suggesting that only a Stanley cup win can bring fan support, I think you are doing the club a disservice by blaming their poor attendance on bad hockey. That is one problem this franchise has rarely had.

  12. “I know fans in Chicago who were, to be blunt, waiting for Bill Wirtz to die before they would go to the arena. He did, of course.”

    Now that’s a commitment to marketing.

  13. I did not say anything about winning only that these things are sometimes cyclical. More importantly, they have needed an owner to see if they can be successful there. I think they have a shot but probably need some playoff runs to get fringe sports fans watching and in the building the following year.

  14. The biggest problem with people citing attendance figures to support whether or not a city supports its team is they ignore ticket prices and what these rabid fans are willing to pay.

    Coyotes went to the Western Conference Finals in 2012. Pretty good season. They lost to the Kings. But had they forced a game 7 to be played at home tickets in the FIRST row of the first bowl/only bowl were being sold for $99 on stubhub. That site that jacks ticket prices during high demand periods like playoffs.

    Kings tickets for this last playoff season were out of this world hitting about $600 low end for the Finals. No way Glendale ever pulls this from their fans. So yeah, maybe Chicago and maybe Pittsburgh didn’t fully support their teams once upon a time when they sucked. You can bet fans have more than made up for this during the feast years.

    Can’t say the same has happened in Glendale. Can say it will probably never happen.

  15. It’s an excellent point, Andrew.

    The new owners of the Coyotes were gloating about “near sellouts” a while back, and the fact that they’ve gotten their average ticket (selling) price up to “around $25”.

    Now, that’s better than the $10 per ticket, plus a free fifth of vodka that they used to have to offer prospective fans… but it’s still a long way from where they need to be to even be viable.

  16. JB:

    They have had good playoff runs… it is possible that the next one will be the great catalyst everyone there is hoping for, but I don’t see any evidence that that is likely to happen.

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