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Baseball expanding investigation into Dodgers

Major League Baseball’s commissioner’s office has extended its investigation into the Dodgers beyond the scrutiny of financial documents by soliciting interviews with former team executives, three people familiar with the matter said Wednesday.

Baseball’s investigation is now nearing its conclusion, bringing a possible end to the bimonthly questions about whether Dodgers owner Frank McCourt will make payroll. McCourt has said the Dodgers’ financial fortunes depend upon approval of a proposed long-term television contract with Fox, a deal Commissioner Bud Selig has said he would not consider until the investigation was complete.

At least some of the interviews with former McCourt employees have included questions about Dodger Stadium security, said the people, who are not allowed to speak publicly on the matter because of the potential for litigation. Following the beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow on opening day, The Times reported that the Dodgers had not employed a full-time head of security for four months and that McCourt had replaced many uniformed police officers with private security personnel.

Selig sent a six-man task force to evaluate the Dodgers’ security. McCourt agreed to Los Angeles Police Department recommendations to upgrade security, including the return of uniformed officers, and retained former LAPD Chief William Bratton as a consultant.

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However, Stow’s family filed suit against the Dodgers, alleging among its complaints that McCourt “carelessly cut funds for security forces at Dodger Stadium.” In response, attorney Jerome Jackson said McCourt and the Dodgers “will defend themselves against the allegations.”

It is uncertain how many former McCourt employees were asked to speak with investigators and how many agreed to do so. McCourt generally requires employees to sign a confidentiality agreement that prevents them from discussing the Dodgers’ business even after they no longer work for the team.

Spokesmen for MLB and McCourt declined to comment.

Meanwhile, McCourt and his ex-wife Jamie are set to return to Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday for the final scheduled session of divorce settlement negotiations with Judge Scott Gordon.

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Frank McCourt this week also served formal notice that he would ask a Massachusetts court to dismiss the suit his former law firm has filed against him.

Gordon last year threw out an agreement that would have provided McCourt sole ownership of the Dodgers. Bingham McCutchen, the Boston-based firm responsible for the agreement, has asked for the court to find that the firm did nothing improper. Such a ruling could prevent McCourt from suing Bingham for malpractice if he loses control of the Dodgers.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

twitter.com/BillShaikin


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