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City CFO questioned stadium naming deal

Union Tribune (2012-02-01) Craig Gustafson

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San Diego’s chief financial officer questioned whether the city was being appropriately paid for a temporary name change of Qualcomm Stadium to endorse the company’s Snapdragon processor on the same day Mayor Jerry Sanders held a news conference touting the promotion.

“Is the city being compensated for promoting a specific Qualcomm product?” Mary Lewis asked in a Dec. 16 email to the mayor’s staff. “Is this above and beyond the original naming agreement? This kind of product exposure is worth a considerable amount of money and was this part of the negotiation?”

Her query — which received no response — is included in nearly 250 pages of emails obtained by The Watchdog through a public-records request. Sanders allowed Qualcomm to change the stadium’s name to Snapdragon for $1,000 despite receiving a Dec. 7 opinion from the City Attorney’s Office that the move wasn’t legal without City Council approval.

The mayor has been criticized for poor adherence to city contracting rules and not negotiating a better deal for a city facing a $12 million budget deficit.

The emails show Qualcomm executives joked about city bureaucracy and were disappointed when the city attorney’s opinion hit the news.

“This headline is not going over well here today,” wrote Cynthia Ray, who is in communications with Qualcomm. She was referring to a San Diego Reader story titled “Snapdragon Stadium Was Illegal, City Attorney Memo Says.”

The name switch, which began Dec. 16, allowed Qualcomm to promote Snapdragon through three nationally televised football games during the month. Planning for the promotion began in early November, according to the emails, and hit a speed bump when City Attorney Jan Goldsmith weighed in. One of the issues he raised was that the switch violated the city’s sign ordinance, which requires advertised products to be sold on the premises.

One staff member suggested game attendees could download a Snapdragon application on their phones and therefore comply with the ordinance. Jay Goldstone, the city’s chief operating officer, replied: “Wow. That is creative. I like that kind of thinking.”

After the switch had occurred, the mayor’s staff put a one-page agreement in writing with Qualcomm that called for the company to pay $1,000 to cover city costs.

“That one pager may need a little more ‘meat on the bone,’” city stadium manager Mike Mc Sweeney wrote to Ray. It’s unclear from the correspondence whether any further changes were made.

One Qualcomm executive, Monique Rodriguez, complained about the city’s lobbying rules — which require public disclosure of contacts with city officials — in a Dec. 9 email to the mayor’s chief of staff.

“Can you tell me who your contact at the stadium was I need to confirm whether or not he/she is a reportable contact as well. You gotta love City bureaucracy :)” she wrote.

Sanders has repeatedly said he doesn’t regret his decision to allow one of the region’s largest employers to advertise an innovative product.

Qualcomm paid $18 million for 20 years of naming rights for the former Jack Murphy Stadium in Mission Valley. It’s unclear how much compensation the city could have received from Qualcomm for the promotion, which was seen by an estimated 30 million football fans on television.


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Title City CFO questioned stadium naming deal
Publisher Union Tribune
Author Craig Gustafson
Pub Date 2012-02-01
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Note Jerry Sanders Ray Lutz
Keywords Snap Dragon
Media Type Linked Article
Media Group News
Curator Rating Plain
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Topic revision: r2 - 03 Aug 2014, RaymondLutz
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