A trustee of the California Science Center's foundation Monday called on Gov. Jerry Brown to stop a pending lease that would give USC millions of dollars worth of parking owned by the state museum as part of a deal to grant the private school control of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
"It's imperative that the governor become personally involved," said Marvin Holen. Brown is "a fierce guardian of the taxpayers' dollars, and there are enormous losses in this entire transaction."
He said the loss of parking revenue would cut deeply into educational programs offered by the Science Center and the neighboring California African American Museum.
"It's basically a war being waged on children," Holen said.
Holen, other museum supporters and several state lawmakers have called the potential parking handover, which would remain in force for 98 years, a lopsided pact in favor of USC at the expense of the taxpayers who own the museums.
Some also have raised questions of whether the state negotiator promoting the proposal, Science Center board member Renata Simril, has a conflict of interest because of her ties to USC.
Robert Stein, a fellow board member who opposes the parking deal, noted in an email to the panel Monday that USC's website identifies Simril as chair of an advisory board for the school's minority real estate program. According to the website, Simril served on a committee for the program's fundraising gala, which was held while she negotiated with USC on behalf of the Science Center.
"Do our negotiators and board rise above the perception of conflict of interest?" Stein asked in the email.
Simril, a Brown appointee to Science Center board, has defended the parking plan as fair to both the museums and USC.
She received a master's degree in real estate development from USC and formerly worked as an adjunct professor for the school. Simril also was once employed by a real estate services company that did business with USC, but has said she had nothing to do with that work and did not financially benefit from it.
In an email to The Times on Monday, Simril said the minority real estate program has helped hundreds of students and she is not paid to advise it, and she noted that her Science Board position is also voluntary. As a museum board member, she said, her goal is to "weigh all of the concerns, input and risks and make the best decision that protects the public interest."
"In this political and budgetary climate, I trust you know and respect the difficulty in accomplishing this goal. I guess if it was easy, more people would be volunteering," her statement said.
Asked Monday about Simril's USC connections, Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said in an email, "Simril was appointed because of her deep experience, sound judgment and commitment to service and we have full confidence in her abilities."
Westrup did not respond to Holen's comments. The fundraising foundation is separate from the Science Center board.
The Science Center board is scheduled a vote on the proposal Wednesday. That could finalize the broader agreement for the school to take over the publicly owned Coliseum.
Under the deal, USC has promised to invest between $70 million to $150 million in the stadium and adjacent Sports Arena, in exchange for keeping nearly all the revenue from the two properties, including the proceeds of potentially lucrative naming rights.
Holen said the two state museums and nearby Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County "spark a desire and a wonder to draw children into a future that they want. Hundreds of thousands of children go through those centers every year, and this is going to shrink that enormously."
Holen added that the negotiators have worked mostly behind closed doors and two days before the scheduled vote had not released the full text of the proposed Science Center agreement with USC: "This whole thing violates any sense of transparency and good government."
Simril, however, said the negotiations have been an "inclusive process."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times