Santa Clara, 49ers involved in epic battle over proper filing of police overtime bills

There is a throwdown going on between Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor and the owners of the San Francisco 49ers about whether the team is using general fund money for stadium costs, and both the total amount of money (maybe a couple hundred thousand dollars) and the details are fairly trivial, but since it’s being talked about: The 49ers pay the city $170,000 per game for police and fire department costs, and when the city sends more officers and firefighters to a game than that, they’re supposed to bill the team. But they haven’t been, or the team hasn’t been paying it, or something. It hardly seems worth the $200,000 audit that Gillmore has ordered, to me, but if that’s what it takes to get the accounts receivable department in order, okay then.

The interesting bit here is that Santa Clara is even getting to make a stink about proper payment of police and fire overtime, since very few other teams pay for these costs at all — they’re a big part of why Judith Grant Long found that unreported stadium costs typically inflate the total public price tag by about 40%. So really, this isn’t so much a sign that the 49ers are ripping off the public (though they might be, in a very, very small way) as that the deal that Santa Clara cut protects taxpayers to a degree that’s unheard of in much of the nation. California really is a different world for stadium and arena deals, at least if you don’t count Sacramento as part of California.

14 comments on “Santa Clara, 49ers involved in epic battle over proper filing of police overtime bills

  1. $200,000 is not a small amount of money to most people. I say account for it. As the old saying goes $200,000 here, and $200,000 there, pretty soon adds up to real money. I could think of a lot of more worthy uses of $200,000 for the city.

  2. $200,000 is .027% of the $720 million in revenue Santa Clara’s budget calls for.

    That would be like a family with a combined household income of $95,000 worrying about where $26 went.

    (It is early on a Monday, but I believe that math is correct.)

    • So $200,000 is not much for an audit that might account for 40% of the inflation of public costs on a stadium. Shouldn’t the city support more local bean counters than the sports team and police overtime. Spread the wealth.

  3. @ Mary Collier

    The $200,000 number has nothing to do with however much the 49ers are or aren’t shorting the city, it’s how much the audit to figure that number out will cost. Neil’s not saying the amount unpaid is hardly worth it, only that paying $200,000 for an audit to be told however much they’re owed seems like a lot. At any rate, yes, it’s refreshing to see a city willing to hold a team to their commitments.

    • Thanks for your comment. It was early and I misread the article. See my comment to KT above.

  4. Sacramento just goes right on ahead and violates its own ordinances regarding parking revenues and calls it good. They even won a lawsuit contesting this point, but I can read our own ordinances as well as the next guy.

  5. Jed York is an entitled little prick and the worst owner in all of sports.

  6. What would you expect with two of the worst organizations in santa clara (49ers and SCPD) get in bed together, what could go wrong? I hate the stadium and what it has done to our city, but this is on SCPD and now we are spending $200K to tell SCPD how to properly fill out a time card? What a year for SCPD, first their officers are running chop-shops, then using a swat team to raid a muslims family home over a camera, and now this…

  7. Do you want to know what its like to deal with the Yorks? Here is a classic example:

  8. Santa Clara’s Stadium Authority (which includes all of our council members and the city manager) is already under investigation from the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury. The issue is whether taxpayers are paying stadium costs which are not legal under the ballot measure that was passed to allow the stadium to be built. The ballot measure and our city council promised that no General Fund money would be used for the stadium. That promise needs to be kept.

    Letter to the editor in the SJ Mercury News today from the president of the Santa Clara Police Officers’ Association:

    Santa Clara police know the stadium use facts

    As president of the Police Officers’ Association for more than 10 years, I have heard police officers called many things. However, I have never heard them called naive before, especially by the person who is supposed to be leading our agency, Santa Clara Police Chief Mike Sellers.

    The members who spoke to Mayor Lisa Gilmor did so with knowledge of the actual facts, and with the community’s best interest in mind so that wrongdoing could be corrected. They were brave to come forward: Those members spoke out knowing there would be repercussions from police management.

    The men and women of the Santa Clara Police Department believe that the city general fund should be used to provide them exceptional police service, not fund stadium operations. We look forward to the upcoming civil grand jury report on Measure J. If anyone believes that the report will find no errors, they are the ones being naive.

    Patrick Nikolai
    President, Santa Clara Police Officers’ Association

  9. I agree the general fund should be used to pay for the exceptional service provided by the SCPD when their officers are exposing them selfs to women, running crime rings of stolen car parts, and harassing city minorities. But I will stop since this is a blog about stadium issues not police incompetence.

    • Yes, SCPD has been in the news lately for the behavior of some officers. Shame on them, and they are facing consequences brought by the district attorney’s office.

      But that has nothing to do with tapping our General Fund to pay for anything having to do with the stadium. The stadium ballot measure passed in large part because of the prohibition against using any General Fund money for the stadium. What’s been reported in the news regarding the lack of billing of some police (and fire dept. too, reported in another article) resources for the stadium, means that those dollars are being paid by our General Fund, which is not allowed by the law (Measure J) passed by the voters. Our former Mayor, Jamie Matthews (who resigned abruptly the day after the Super Bowl) was in an ad during Measure J in which he said that no taxes dollars would be used for the cost to Santa Clara residents for the stadium….Period!

      To read about the whole sordid tale of how Santa Clarans were lied to in order to get yes votes for the stadium, you can read the timeline article on Santa Clara Plays Fair’s website:

      And recall that the Stadium Authority is under investigation by the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury. Can’t wait to see that report.