A lawsuit filed in San Diego Superior Court late Monday evening alleges that the NFL and officials with the Chargers violated league relocation policies when team owners approved the Chargers' move from San Diego to Los Angeles.
The National Football League, its 32 teams and the City of San Diego are all named defendants in the suit filed by former San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre and former San Diego Chief Deputy City Attorney Maria Severson on behalf of San Diego resident and restaurant owner Ruth Henricks.
The suit claims that even with the city spending millions in taxpayer dollars during the team's San Diego tenure, and despite numerous efforts from city leaders to keep the team in San Diego, Chargers owner Dean Spanos had "made up his mind to move the team to Los Angeles" in 2006.
"Plaintiff suspected that the injury alleged was caused by wrongdoing when plaintiff discovered in December 2021 that Chargers’ owner Dean Spanos admitted he had already made the decision in 2006 to move the Chargers franchise to Los Angeles, yet concealed that decision," the complaint reads. Adding, "Plaintiff discovered these facts when Plaintiff read a December 10, 2021, Union-Tribune article by Sports Columnist Bryce Miller."
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The complaint cites a quote from former NFL official Jim Steeg, who told the San Diego Union-Tribune last month that Spanos had already planned the relocation, "It just took him 10 years to do it."
Spanos told Chargers fans in a 1997 public statement that the team would remain in San Diego unless the franchise suffered "severe financial hardship," yet according to the lawsuit, Spanos "broke his word" two decades later and announced the Los Angeles move despite the Chargers being worth more than $1 billion as of 2017.
On Jan. 12, 2017, the Chargers tweeted a letter from Dean Spanos, announcing the decision to move to Los Angeles from San Diego.
The suit further alleges that despite "a substantial expenditure of public funds'' related to establishing a new San Diego stadium or upgrading the existing stadium, "there were no good faith negotiations from the Chargers or the NFL'' and "the team did not meet with the community nor the city in any meaningful way.''
On Nov. 24, 2021, the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority, the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County agreed to a $790 million settlement with the NFL, resulting from a suit filed over the Rams' relocation to Los Angeles, alleging league relocation policy violations, similarly brought forth by Aguirre and Severson.
A request by Aguirre and Severson was made to San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria on Jan. 14, 2022, inquiring whether or not the city planned to file suit, as was done by the city of St. Louis, to recover taxpayer losses from the Chargers' relocation.
Their request asked the mayor and the city to respond to them by Jan. 21, but the city declined to respond to their letter, which led to the legal action by Henricks, Aguirre and Severson in an attempt to recover alleged taxpayer losses.
City officials, though, seemed to welcome the suit, acknowledging that "suing the National Football League is a costly and uphill battle," Gloria and City Attorney Mara Elliott wrote in a joint statement sent to NBC 7 San Diego.
"As Mr. Aguirre himself has stated in interviews, and his lawsuit on behalf of taxpayers is at its earliest stage. Given that city taxpayers would be the recipient of any damages and restitution the court may award if litigation prevails, we wish Mr. Aguirre success in this effort," their statement added.
The first hearing in this case is set for 9:15 a.m. on July 1, 2022, in San Diego Superior Court.
A copy of the complaint filed can be viewed here: