L.A. Memorial Coliseum criticized for lacking transparency [Updated]
Members of a California state board chastised the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Wednesday for not answering all their questions about a proposed deal to surrender day-to-day control of the stadium to USC.
The criticism from the board of the California Science Center museum comes as the Coliseum Commission races to make a deal with USC to give up public control of the storied venue and companion Sports Arena. The commission, a joint authority of the city, county and state, has become so broke that it cannot afford to operate the Coliseum on its own. Coliseum officials have blamed the stadium’s former managers. The Times has been reporting on financial irregularities at the Coliseum for a year.
At Wednesday’s meeting of the Science Center board, which owns the Coliseum land, panel members said they had not been fully briefed on the proposed USC lease, and raised pointed questions about whether the Coliseum operates in transparency. The USC deal has major implications for the Coliseum’s neighbors, which include the Science Center, an African-American museum and Exposition Park. The Coliseum’s lease payments supports museum and park operations.
“Have you contemplated a public hearing on issues that may relate to this board?” Robert L. Stein, chairman of the Science Center board, asked Coliseum Interim General Manager John Sandbrook. When hearing no affirmative answer, Stein said, “If this board wants to have the issues pertaining to us, the Science Center, answered here in public, this board needs to take that job upon itself. … We have been specifically excluded from any negotiations … We have not had any input whatsoever.”
Sandbrook avoided making any promise of having a public hearing, saying only that people could attend the Coliseum’s monthly meeting or speak with him privately.
Charmaine Jefferson, executive director of the California African American Museum, said she has been kept in the dark about the USC lease details.
“We share in the desire to have as much information as possible. We have not been consulted or our opinion asked,” she said. “I’m saying this on the record because there’s no other way to do this – we’ve never been asked.”
Jefferson added: “We’ve got a really complex issue. … Can’t we just make this easier if we just had just two seconds of input?”
Seeming flustered and turning red, Sandbrook repeatedly said he had asked for input from the Coliseum’s neighbors last month. The terms of the proposed were released on Jan. 11.
But the Science Center board members said they hadn’t received enough information to address any possible concerns about the proposed agreement. Board member Irene Romero, who is assigned as a liaison with Sandbrook, said that when she last spoke with him about the lease, “you [Sandbrook] said that you were overwhelmed and could not deal with it until after a certain function that you had.”
[Updated, 2:22 p.m. Feb. 3: Romero has subsequently said she was directing her comments to Jefferson, not Sandbrook. Jefferson then responded to Romero, “I’m not sure who you spoke to, Irene… We directly have not talked about this particular thing.”]
“If we’re not informed on the process,” Stein said, “ I don’t know why we would make comments.“
After being interrupted by Sandbrook, who again said he had invited the board to offer feedback on the lease terms, Stein shot back: “You don’t dictate how this board operates. We will choose when, how and where [we will] respond and what we will respond.”
-- Rong-Gong Lin II at the California African American Museum
Photo: The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Credit: John W. Adkisson / Los Angeles Times