Just when skeptics thought the relationship between the Chargers and the mayor’s office at San Diego’s city hall couldn’t get more tenuous, the Bolts’ special counsel Mark Fabiani has just fired a shot across the bow of Team Faulconer in an accusatory letter dated Tuesday.
In return, Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s top political strategist, Jason Roe, leveled this broadside at Fabiani in an exclusive email to NBC 7: “Ryan Leaf is no longer the worst personnel decision in Charger’s history. In 14 years of failure, Mark Fabiani has done nothing but make excuses, lay blame, and pick fights.”
Coming on the heels of Fabiani's stern language and warnings to the mayor’s Stadium Advisory Group, could this ferocious dustup accelerate a Los Angeles-centric exit strategy for the franchise before the group holds its third meeting to work out a local solution?
Here, below, is the correspondence that’s adding fuel to what appears to be a fiery new chapter in the Chargers’ history -- still a work in progress -- in San Diego. Click here for the original document.
In the letter to the mayor, Fabiani pressed for legal and practical clarification of the role the mayor's political advisers are playing on the task force. He questioned why Roe and another consultant Tony Manolatos sat in the back of the room during the Charger's first meeting with the mayor's advisory group.
Manolatos, Fabiani pointed out, once worked for the Port of San Diego, which has opposed Chargers' plans for a stadium-convention center joint use facility. He has now been named spokesman for the group.
"Mr. Fabiani continues to criticize membership of the group, everything but try to find a solution, " said Faulconer. "I think that's unfortunate. When San Diegans for the first time have the opportunity to have a real plan with real financing, that's what we should be focusing on, but instead we continue to have constant criticism."
Faulconer fired back his own letter Tuesday afternoon. Click here for the full text.
In it, he said, "it is with this in mind that I express my disappointment in the ongoing actions and demeanor of Mr. Fabiani. His divisive tone and criticism of this group of volunteers, civic leaders and the city of San Diego as a whole are not conducive to developing a plan for a new stadium. I hope his behavior is not indicative of our ability to find a solution.
It seems there's finally a limit to the Chargers' patience for a new stadium in San Diego.
On Monday, at its first meeting with the mayor's recently appointed advisory group, the team said it's now keeping “a close eye on” -- and evaluating -- the Los Angeles market.
Why the shift in their perspective?
It's the stadium proposal in Inglewood being advanced by Stan Kroenke, the multibillionaire owner of the St. Louis Rams.
The Bolts are making it clear that they don't want to finish second in a race to greener turf.
They have serious doubts that the nine-member stadium advisory group will reach a “publicly acceptable solution” in the San Diego area.
In an interview with NBC 7 before his meeting with the group, Fabiani offered a pessimistic rationale: “Staying in San Diego without any options for the future, without any hope of getting a new facility, and one or perhaps two teams moving into the L.A. market and gutting the team's business there -- is not really an option, unfortunately."
The stadium advisers have been asked to take another look at the current, Mission Valley site -- even as the target site for several years has been in East Village, near the MTS bus yard.
Any taxpayer land or money thrown into the deal would trigger a two-thirds voter approval requirement.
And the Chargers don't think that's attainable for a potential project cost of up to $1.5 billion.
Fabiani left some wiggle room with this caveat: "Somebody could come in and come up with an idea that we hadn't thought of. We hope that happens -- even though it'll make us look like bumblers for 13 years. It'll get us a solution here, which is what the Spanos family (the team’s ownership) wants. But we also have to be realistic."
The stadium group's chairman is preaching optimism, in hopes that a site and financing proposal aimed at next year's ballot cycle can be produced by late summer or early fall.
"I think a solution can be found if all of us agree to work together in a cooperative fashion,” Adam Day told reporters at a noontime news conference Monday. "You've got a group of nine volunteers who've got a fresh set of eyes on this issue. And we think there'll be a solution to be had.”
But the Chargers are telling politicians -- in effect -- to tread carefully.
Adding a bit of edge to their new focus on the Los Angeles market is some language in a memo of talking points that Mark Fabiani covered in the meeting with stadium advisers: "We have no intention of allowing the Chargers franchise to be manipulated for political cover, and we will call out any elected official who tries to do so."
All this strikes Bernie Wilson, San Diego-based sportswriter for the Associated Press, as the most stark threat the team ever has directed at local political leaders.
“If this isn't a haymaker followed by a flurry of jabs, followed maybe a kick to the midsection,” Wilson told NBC 7, “it's pretty close … in the real world it comes across as fighting words. And fighting words sometimes -- and often times -- it ends poorly."
The Chargers say they've spent $15 million since 2001, studying nine different sites around San Diego County.
The team has created a website with all that data for the advisory group and offered to bring NFL executives to future meetings.
As Fabiani told them at the beginning of his remarks: “We appreciate the enormous difficulty of the challenge before you.”