Pasadena councilman battles recall campaign claim of conflict of interest

Rose Bowl Renovation

Andres Aguila/KPCC

Rose Bowl renovations due for completion next could make the stadium an attractive temporary home to an NFL team. But a vote to talk with the NFL about that has made City Councilman Steve Madison a recall target.

Pasadena City Councilman Steve Madison has filed a rebuttal against the recall campaign against him over his support of a plan to negotiate with a pro football team that might need a temporary home at the Rose Bowl.

Madison represents neighborhoods near the Rose Bowl, where many residents worry about the extra traffic, noise, trash and rowdy crowds an NFL team could bring.

Madison and all but one council member voted to change an ordinance to double the number of major events allowed at the Rose Bowl each year to accommodate the NFL.

A possibility, not a plan

In his rebuttal to the recall campaign, he maintains the council was voting on a possibility, not a plan.

"There is currently no proposal for temporary use of the Rose Bowl, and there may never be one," wrote Madison in a rebuttal filed Thursday with the Pasadena City Clerk.

In an interview with KPCC, Madison added that any deal with an NFL team would come back before the City Council.  "I would not hesitate to vote AGAINST a proposal that the community couldn’t support," Madison said.

In 2006, Madison cast the deciding vote against the NFL’s long term use of the Rose Bowl. But given the rising cost of the stadium’s renovation and Pasadena’s strained finances, Madison said it would be fiscally irresponsible now to rule out hosting an NFL team temporarily.

Recall claims conflict of interest

The recall campaign against Madison claims the councilman has a conflict of interest in the NFL matter.

Madison is a partner in a law firm that does a lot of work for the NFL and some of its teams. The website of the firm - Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan - says a partner in its New York office has served as chief outside counsel to the NFL and some teams on copyright and other matters.  

"Any second-year law student knows that Madison has a duty of loyalty to the NFL by the very fact that his firm represents the NFL," said Mike Vogler, an attorney and a leader of the recall campaign.

"At the very least, Mr. Madison should have recused himself from this discussion," said Vogler.  

Madison refutes the conflict of interest claim. He says his work for the law firm is not for the NFL.

"I made sure that I don’t receive any compensation directly or indirectly related to that work that that partner in New York has done for those teams on copyright matters," said Madison.

The recall campaign will need to collect around 2,800 signatures from voters in Madison’s district to get on the ballot. Madison says he’ll campaign vigorously against it. 

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