A group fighting Sacramento’s arena subsidy won the right Tuesday to compel testimony from City Councilman Kevin McCarty in its effort to prove that the city and the new Kings owners engaged in backroom dealings to help them purchase the team.
City officials had contended that McCarty, as a council member, should be immune to answering questions.
But Sacramento Superior Court Judge Eugene Balonon ordered the city to make McCarty and city economic development director Jim Rinehart available to answer questions about the $258 million subsidy within the next 20 days. Balonon indicated a week ago he would allow the depositions of McCarty and Rinehart, which would be held behind closed doors.
The judge granted the city seven days to appeal his ruling.
In a statement filed in court, attorney Patrick Soluri said McCarty told him the city gave the Kings a secret subsidy intended to reimburse the Kings investors for the fact that they were “overpaying” for the franchise. The new owners bought the team in a deal valued at an NBA-record $535 million.
Also, Soluri said McCarty told him Rinehart felt the city had seriously undervalued city land that is being given to the Kings as part of the deal. Soluri’s clients, a group of citizens fighting the deal, believe the true value of the subsidy is well above $258 million.
McCarty, who opposes the subsidy, said Tuesday by email, “I certainly have no problem answering tough questions during these legal proceedings.”
City lawyers have said there was no backroom deal with the new team owners.
Meanwhile, a pro-arena group aligned with Mayor Kevin Johnson and organized labor stepped up their legal efforts to block a potential public vote in June on the subsidy question. In a letter to city officials, a lawyer for The4000 said subsidy opponents distributed “at least nine different versions” of their petitions. A week ago, The4000 said there were five separate versions.
The letter from The4000’s lawyer Sean Welch said some versions have “glaring errors” and must be rejected by city elections officials.
Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork, the group fighting the deal, has said the differences between the petitions are minor. STOP lawyer Brad Hertz said city officials “don’t have the discretion” to reject any of the petitions.
STOP submitted 35,247 signatures and needs to get 22,027 validated to qualify the issue for the ballot. As of Tuesday, 19,672 had been counted and 12,908 were deemed valid. The count must be completed by Jan. 23.