L.A. councilman says Jerry Brown failed taxpayers on Coliseum deal

City Councilman Bernard C. Parks on Monday said Gov. Jerry Brown failed California taxpayers by ignoring his complaints about secrecy surrounding the deal that gave USC control of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and nearly all of its revenue.

Parks said Brown and his representatives never replied to a letter the councilman sent the governor last June asking him to block the lease agreement between the private university and the publicly owned stadium.


"They did not want to hear the information," Parks said. "They didn't want to discuss it."

Parks was responding to a Times report Saturday on the Coliseum Commission's efforts to keep the USC lease deliberations under wraps and to avoid disclosing documents related to the talks.

After losing an open-government lawsuit filed by The Times and a 1st Amendment group, the commission was ordered to pay about $415,000 in legal fees to the plaintiffs and release hundreds of pages of emails and other records.

The content of the emails offered support to Parks and others who said the commission worked with USC to limit scrutiny of the deliberations while drafting a 98-year lease that favored the school at the expense of the public.

The lease won final approval from the governing board of the Coliseum's landlord, the California Science Center, in September. The board is made up of Brown appointees.

Told of Parks' remarks, a Brown spokesman said Monday the governor had no comment.

The Coliseum Commission also includes representatives of Brown, as well as appointees of the county Board of Supervisors and the city. The commission negotiated the lease and approved it in May 2012. Parks, a commissioner at the time, was the lone vote in opposition.

He said Monday that former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, whose administration appointed two commissioners who backed the lease, should not have taken a job with USC in October of this year, shortly after the state board approved the agreement. Parks said Villaraigosa's hiring as a professor had the appearance of a quid pro quo.

"The timing of it is very, very peculiar," he said.

Villaraigosa did not respond to requests for comment late Monday.

At the very least, Parks said, the mayor and Brown should have objected to a 2011 secrecy pact the commission negotiators signed at USC's request, barring both sides from publicly discussing the lease talks.

"The confidentiality agreement should have bothered everyone," he said.

The Times and Californians Aware sued the commission in July 2012, alleging that the panel violated the state's transparency laws by keeping the public out of the deliberations and refusing to release the emails and other records.

The commission argued that secrecy was needed both to protect its position in a real estate negotiation and because of what it said was the threat of a lawsuit by USC.


Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Luis A. Lavin rejected the commission's defense. In his ruling, he cited a declaration by Parks that the commission discussed a number of matters in closed sessions that should have been addressed in public.

Under the lease, USC gets all but a small percentage of revenue from the Coliseum, where the school plays football, and the neighboring Sports Arena, including money from the sale of naming rights and advertising.

In return, the school picks up the commission's annual rent to the state for the Coliseum land, which starts at $1 million, and must spend at least $70 million on stadium improvements.