As previously reported here,the lobbying firm of Jason Roe, a longtime political consultant for San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, has been quietly retained by stadium food and beverage vendor Delaware North regarding that company’s attempt to win a lucrative city contract at Qualcomm Stadium.
At the same time, Roe has turned up as an advisor to Faulconer in his efforts to build a new Chargers stadium. The winner of the Qualcomm deal will get first refusal rights for a similar concession at any new venue the city builds, according to city documents.
San Diego has a rich history of political consultants turning into lobbyists after their bosses were elected, some with not-so-happy endings.
Before Roe there was onetime Roger Hedgecock consultant and Bob Filner political guru Tom Shepard, whose lobbying firm threw a post-election office party for the Democratic mayor that drew legions of city hall influence peddlers.
During the sexual harassment scandal that brought Filner down in the summer of 2013, the “Mayor Bob Filner for San Diego” committee refunded $21,676, and Shepard's lobbying staff walked out.
Roe didn't return our calls regarding his work for Delaware North, but his dual role as lobbyist and the mayor's stadium advisor has caught the attention of Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani, who is directing his questions to Faulconer.
"We write to clarify the legal and practical role that your political advisors are playing in the operations of your new stadium Task Force," says Fabiani in a February 17 letter to the mayor.
"When the meeting between the Chargers' representative and the Task Force began, your chief political consultant, Jason Cable Roe, sat with the Task Force throughout the entire meeting."
Fabiani then asks, "What legal and ethical issues are raised by Mr. Roe's dual role as an apparent de facto Task Force member and as a registered lobbyist for the Delaware North company, which is bidding to become the new concessionaire at Qualcomm Stadium and, potentially, at any new stadium in San Diego?"
The letter goes on to say, "Putting the legal and ethical issues aside for a moment, what sense does it make to have someone who is your chief advisor on political matters, and who advises a potential stadium vendor on business matters, play any sort of role with the 'independent' Task Force?"
Writes Fabiani, "Have you asked the City Attorney for an opinion on the propriety of Mr. Roe's intensive involvement with the Task Force's work? If you have not yet asked for such an opinion from the City Attorney, do you intend to do so?"
The Chargers special counsel also questions news that the mayoral task force is seeking private contributions to pay Tony Manolatos, a former U-T San Diego reporter who is doing PR work for the group.
"The Chargers were told by Task Force Chairman Adam Day that the Task Force 'had no budget,'" the letter says. "If the Task Force is capable of raising private funding, do you agree that this funding is better spent on a spokesperson than on expert help that might assist the Task Force in reaching a positive result?"
Adds Fabiani, "Now that the Task Force is raising money from private donors, will you disclose to the public and the Chargers the source of all of those donations as they are received?"
In addition, he asks, "Will you disclose to the public and the Chargers what restrictions, if any, you are imposing on donors who might have an interest, one way or the other, in the stadium issue? For example, will you permit representatives of the hotel or convention industries to donate to the Task Force?”
Continues Fabiani, “Did the Task Force vote to retain Mr. Manolatos as a consultant, or was that decision made for the Task Force by the Mayor's Office? If there was a Task Force vote, when did that vote occur, and is there any record of how Task Force members voted that the public can review?"
Fabiani also questions the role Manolatos had in a series of U-T San Diego exposés that brought down port executive Wayne Darbeau, as previously reported here.
"Do you believe there is a conflict of interest in Mr. Manolatos' representation of the Unified Port of San Diego — one of the major opponents of the Chargers' plans for a joint use facility downtown— while he is also serving as the spokesperson for the 'independent' Task Force?"
In a quote posted online by the U-T, Faulconer's Roe fired back:
"In 14 years of failure, Mark Fabiani has done nothing but make excuses, lay blame, and pick fights. The Mayor’s advisory committee is just that — the Mayor’s advisory committee and Mark doesn’t get to dictate how the Mayor organizes his advisory group. Rather than work constructively with the committee to find solutions, Mark’s back to his normal routine of picking fights to avoid progress."