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Judge chastises LA Coliseum Commission for secrecy

Posted: October 4, 2013 9:36 a.m.
Updated: October 4, 2013 9:36 a.m.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Superior Court judge upbraided the public agency that controls the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for repeatedly holding secret meetings to negotiate leasing the historic structure to the University of Southern California for 98 years.

Judge Luis A. Lavin said Thursday the Coliseum Commission seems to have an "aversion" to conducting its business in public. He accused commissioners of having "driven a Mack truck through" a narrow exemption in the state's Ralph M. Brown Act, which requires that most government business be conducted in public.

Lavin said he is ready to issue an injunction requiring the commission to restrict what it discusses in private and that it record all of its future private meetings for three years, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

Lavin also indicated, however, that he is not inclined to revoke the lease because commissioners did eventually take public comments on the agreement before signing it.

The Times is suing to have the lease thrown out because of the secret negotiations.

The newspaper and the group Californians Aware also request that all documents relating to the negotiations be made public. Lavin is expected to rule on that issue later, as well as whether commissioners acted improperly in withholding the documents.

The Coliseum, opened in 1923, has been the site of both the 1932 and 1984 Olympics and is home to USC's Trojans football team. A public, taxpayer-owned entity, it is operated by the Coliseum Commission, which is composed of representatives of the mayor's office, governor's office, City Council and county Board of Supervisors.

The commission began negotiating with USC in 2011 to lease the stadium and adjacent Los Angeles Sports Arena after running short of money to pay for promised upgrades to the stadium.

The lease gives the private university almost total control of both facilities and their revenues. The stadium and the arena have frequently played host to concerts, electronic dance music festivals and other events.

The judge chastised commissioners for reaching such an agreement with a private university without first putting the lease up for public bid.

"We're talking about a public asset being transferred to a private entity with no public bidding," he said. "It looks like this was a train on a track to get this to USC."


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