Restaurateur Patrick Mulvaney got a shock a few weeks ago when he contacted a client, the Sacramento Kings, to discuss last-minute details for a banquet at his midtown eatery.
A Kings executive told him they were canceling the lunch at Mulvaney's Building & Loan. They had just seen Mulvaney's signature on a letter from 21 Sacramento businessmen to the NBA urging it to push the Kings owners to sell. Mulvaney's name also appeared on a separate list of businessmen attending the press event where the letter was signed.
But Mulvaney says he wasn't at the event and had not signed the letter. His signature was forged.
The man who organized the April 12 letter signing was Greg Hayes, a local business consultant and member of Mayor Kevin Johnson's Think Big Sacramento arena task force.
Hayes admitted when contacted by the Bee last week that five of the signatures were not signed by the people whose names are listed. Hayes declined to say who put their names on the letter.
Bee phone calls this week identified seven people who said they didn't sign the letter, but their signatures appeared on it anyway. Five said they hadn't given their OK; two said they had.
For his part, Mulvaney says he was livid that his name was signed falsely, and that it had cost him a major client.
He emailed Hayes, demanding Hayes write to the Kings and the NBA immediately, "stating that I did not, in fact, sign that letter."
"You invited me to attend your press conference ... . I decided not to attend," Mulvaney wrote. "Now I see that my signature has been forged. Your action has put my 10-year relationship with the Kings and many of their employees in jeopardy and is costing me business."
Hayes emailed an apology to the Kings and the NBA two days later.
"I am writing to clarify a miscommunication that occurred last week with the letter that several local business people and I generated to the NBA ..." Hayes wrote.
"Patrick Mulvaney should not have been party to that letter. I apologize to Mr. Mulvaney and to you for this horrible misunderstanding."
Hayes said his group was in a rush to get the letter to the NBA the morning of the signing. Members wanted league officials to have their letter in hand when the Kings owners made a presentation that day to the league on why they would not agree to a proposed downtown arena financing plan.
Hayes said his group signed the extra names at the bottom because they thought those people supported sending the letter. Hayes said he had invited those people to the signing and thought they were willing to sign, even though they did not show up.
Hayes declined to say who signed the names to the letter, or why several of those names were also listed as being present at the event, even though they were not.
Of those whose names were signed on the letter by someone else, only Mulvaney and Stan Lukowicz would comment publicly.
Lukowicz, of Capital City Loan & Jewelry, said he has no problem with his name being put on the letter. "I feel ... Greg was given my blessing to do that."
Several others who spoke briefly to The Bee said they talked with Hayes afterward, that he apologized and that they consider the matter over.
The Kings' attorneys have since hired a private investigator who has been attempting to contact the people whose names appear to have been falsified, said sources who were not authorized to speak publicly.
In response, Think Big Sacramento head Chris Lehane wrote a letter to the U.S. attorney general last week asking for a criminal investigation of the Kings for what he described as an effort that appears designed to harass and intimidate businesspeople who expressed concerns about the Maloof family's stewardship of the Kings.
A U.S. attorney general's spokesman declined comment.
Lehane said Wednesday he based his letter on a television news report, and does not know whom the private investigator is calling. Lehane said Hayes gave Think Big Sacramento officials a courtesy heads-up before the letter signing, but the event was not a Think Big event.
A spokesman for the Kings, Eric Rose, declined to comment on the private investigator, but characterized Hayes' letter as part of "relentless unwarranted attacks" on the Kings ownership since the arena deal fell through several weeks ago.
"These forgeries are a calculated attempt to destroy the business of the Sacramento Kings," Rose said in an email.
Restaurateur Mulvaney, a proponent of a downtown arena, said the Kings ultimately set up another lunch at his restaurant after Hayes' apology, and after Mulvaney talked with Gavin Maloof.
"My relationship with the Kings is still solid," he said. "I don't have any right to tell someone else how to run their business."