L.A. commission agreed to gag rule on Coliseum talks with USC

And speaking of public agencies not disclosing stadium deal details, there’s a huge kerfuffle unfolding in Los Angeles over plans to turn over control of the publicly owned L.A. Coliseum to the private University of Southern California, and in the latest twist, three members of the public Coliseum Commission have admitted they signed a confidentiality agreement not to discuss the lease talks in public:

During the next seven months, the full commission conducted all of its deliberations on the pending Coliseum deal with USC behind closed doors.

The secrecy surrounding the lease proposal has been ammunition for critics who say the arrangement is lopsided in USC’s favor. For the next 98 years, the lease would grant the school most of the benefits of owning the stadium complex, which includes the neighboring Sports Arena, but guarantee the public little in terms of revenues from or access to the properties. A final vote on it is set for later this month by a state board that owns the Coliseum land.

On Thursday, [interim stadium general manager John] Sandbrook said the confidentiality pledge was “not on any other document communicated to the public” and the full commission never voted on it.

The upshot of the deal appears to be that USC is spending between $70 million and $150 million on renovations to the Coliseum and the adjacent L.A. Memorial Sports Arena, in exchange for all future revenues (including naming rights) from the two facilities, including the right to tear down the arena and build a soccer stadium if it wants. On the face of it, that doesn’t sound like a great deal for the city, but without a full list of all the costs and benefits to everyone from this project, it’s tough to say for sure how awful it is. Fortunately, that’s the sort of thing that should come to light during the public vetting process, so … oh wait.

L.A. Coliseum exec used scoreboard upgrades to collect Visa points

This is only tangentially related to the topic at hand here, but it’s just too good to pass up:

Last spring, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum set out to upgrade the sound system for its new video board. The equipment and shipping costs were steep — about $270,000.

Finance Director Ronald Lederkramer could have bought the gear the way other government agencies do, by issuing a check from the taxpayer-owned stadium.

Instead, he put the package of high-powered loudspeakers on his personal Chase Visa card, charging it in installments and paying those off with government checks that he and a lower-ranking employee signed, according to records and interviews.

In the process, depending on which Visa he used, Lederkramer earned roughly enough redeemable reward points for a week at the downtown Ritz-Carlton, two Bulova watches or even a pair of first-class round-trip United Airlines tickets to London or Tokyo worth as much as $24,000, award schedules show.

Asked about the Visa money laundering, Lederkramer acknowledged that he’d charged Coliseum bills to his personal card, saying he’d used his card points to travel to conferences on stadium business — but said he didn’t have documentation of those trips. “Why would I have kept that?” he told the Los Angeles Times.

Lederkramer’s actions were apparently against Coliseum purchasing rules, but it’s worth wondering: In situations where private sports teams control spending on stadium upgrades — whether or not they’re reimbursed by taxpayers — can team execs use this trick to gain similar benefits? Membership does have its privileges.