A letter written by Sacramento businessmen last month asking the NBA to encourage the Kings owners to sell has suddenly become the center of intrigue.
One of the letter-signing organizers acknowledged when asked by the Bee Monday that five of the 21 signatures on the letter are not the signatures of the people whose names are listed. Instead, someone signed for them, assuming proxy signatures would be OK, according to Greg Hayes, who organized the effort.
Hayes said the five people had told him they were supportive of the letter the day before the signing, but they did not show up for the signing.
In later phone conversations, two of the people told Hayes they had "misgivings" about seeing their names on the letter, according to Hayes. He declined to identify those two people.
The issue surfaced last week after a media report indicated that the Maloof family, owners of the Kings, recently had a private investigator look into whether signatures on the letter were forged.
Chris Lehane, head of the mayor's Think Big Sacramento arena advocacy group, responded Monday evening with a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice asking it to investigate whether the Kings are violating any laws by harassing and intimidating "citizens of the region who have expressed concerns about the Maloof family's stewardship of the Kings."
A spokesman for the Maloofs declined to answer questions about whether the family had hired an investigator and, if so, why.
"It is the Kings' and Maloofs' policy not to discuss internal business," spokesman Eric Rose said.
But Rose slammed Think Big over the signatures."It is becoming clearer that the foundation of Think Big is built on fabrication and deception," he said. "The name of the organization should be changed to Think Big Fraud."
Hayes, a local business consultant, said his group was in a rush to get the letter to the NBA the morning of the signing. The Kings owners were making a presentation that day to the league in New York, stating the team's case for declining to go along with a downtown arena deal.
"This was put together quickly," Hayes said. "There may have been a miscommunication."
Hayes said, however, that after the letter was publicized, he got calls from dozens of businesspeople who told him they would have been willing to sign if they'd had the chance.
Stan Lukowicz, one of the businessmen whose name was signed for him, told The Bee on Monday he has no problem with what happened.
"I feel they had my blessing to do that," said Lukowicz of Capital City Loan & Jewelry.
Lukowicz said one of his managers later got a call from a man saying he was representing the Maloofs, asking if Lukowicz had actually signed the letter. Lukowicz said he did not call the man back. "I'm busier than the Maloofs if they have time to waste on that," he said.