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General view of the game between the Utah Utes and the USC Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 10, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.
You may not give a lot of thought to LA's Memorial Coliseum, but there may be a big change coming.
The Coliseum Commission, which includes a number of governmental entities, is negotiating with the University of Southern California to take over operation of the taxpayer-owned Coliseum. So far, the Commisison has failed to provide the money necessary to made upgrades promised in a recent lease agreement between the two entities.
The agency and USC are working on new lease agreement that would to allow the University to take over and refurbish the property, but critics of the process, including Councilman Bernard Parks, say numerous closed-door meetings are violating the Brown Act (the Ralph M. Brown Act), which allows public bodies to secretly deliberate but only certain monetary matters, such as price and payment terms.
"I'm critical of the process that has gone forward and not having public hearings about this whole giveaway to USC," said Councilman Bernard Parks. "My concern is that if you're going to take a facility that means this much to the community, and particularly that its in my district, I would have expected more outreach in the sense of bringing the public in."
Assistant County Counsel Thomas J. Faughnan, the panel’s attorney, said Wednesday that the Brown Act permits private deliberations to protect the negotiation positions of government agencies. However, Terry Francke, an authority on the law, said the commission’s process appears to be in conflict state Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris’s December opinion limiting material that can be kept confidential under the Brown Act.
"Councilman Parks never registered that complaint with the commission and he has been involved in every one of the meetings that we've had and in fact he has supported the framework of the lease every time is has come up for a vote," countered Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. "We should not have our negotiating strategy sessions in public for our negotiating adversary, I don't want to call SC an adversary, necessarily, but they are on the other side of the negotiating table."
Should the ownership of the Coliseum be turned over to USC and if so what should LA County receive in exchange for such a valuable asset? And are the negotiations between the Coliseum Commission and the University transparent enough?
Bernard Parks, Councilman, Eighth District, City of Los Angeles
Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles County Supervisor representing the Third District
Kristina E. Raspe, Vice President, Real Estate Development and Asset Management for USC