SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — New emails and video depositions are lifting the curtain on the secret downtown arena negotiations between Sacramento city leaders and the so-called whale investors that led to city keeping the Sacramento Kings.
A lawsuit alleges the mayor and city staff defrauded the public with hidden benefits for investors. The city and mayor are disputing the allegations.READ MORE: Sunday's Show Info (1/23/22)
The evidence plaintiffs gathered in the lawsuit now includes depositions of Mayor Kevin Johnson and Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadive, along with an email sent by Ranadive that said, “The problem is that while $525 million might be a justifiable price for the Seattle market it is not for Sac.”
Documents also include city preliminary drafts that the plaintiff alleges shows an effort by the city to secretly add more value for Kings investors, above the $258 million Sacramento public subsidy.
A handwritten note on one of the documents reads “can’t put in writing. politically tough”
Under Johnson’s talking points, there’s a line reading “above and beyond, found a way to get $150 to $250 million in estimated additional revenues.”
City attorneys would not comment on the pending litigation.READ MORE: Gould's FG On Final Play Gives 49ers 13-10 Upset Of Packers
The Sacramento City Council approved the arena deal as the city was fighting to prevent the team from leaving for Seattle. The deal included specific dollar amounts in cash and land, But benefits like digital billboards and Downtown Plaza parking included in the arena term sheet had listed no dollar value.
Plaintiffs allege those unvalued benefits amount to a secret subsidy.
University of Pacific McGeorge School of Law professor Clark Kelso says while the evidence may make for political problems, legally he says fraud will be hard to prove.
“The lawsuit here, really seems to come down to what’s the value of those additional assets and actions and was that concealed,” he said. “I guess from my perspective, the staff or the city, they did the right thing, in trying to say, here are the additional assets, the value is unknown. Really. We can tell you what we think it might be, but it seems to me from a legal perspective, its going to be very hard for a court to find fraud.”
He says while the evidence shows emails predicting revenue from the added assets, their future value comes at no cost to the city.MORE NEWS: Turlock Man Allegedly Stabs Officer With Concealed Weapon During Pursuit
A pretrial hearing is set for Friday, while the trial is set to begin on June 22.