Inglewood Mayor James Butts must be in his feelings about the Forum funding the campaign of Marc Little for mayor. As it is no different than developers Wilson Meaney/Stan Kroenke funding the mayor and Councilmen George Dotson and Ralph Franklin to get their property rezoned for an NFL stadium.
What’ most interesting is the change of heart by Councilman Franklin as he vehemently supported residents stopping a Walmart from coming, to that same parcel Kroenke “allegedly” purchased from his wife, an heir to the Walmart fortune. Will records reveal it was nothing more than a title swap between spouses as Mayor Butts and his wife does on his real estate investments in Inglewood?
The city also urged the same developers (Wilson Meaney) to not include any affordable housing on their newly rezoned property, as outlined in the $21 million dollars loan the city made for the Hollywood Park Tomorrow project.
Though some community members expressed concern that the city loaned $18 million to The Madison Square Garden Company for the purchase of The Forum, and another $21 million to the Hollywood Park Tomorrow Project, loans that will both eventually be forgiven, both Cruz and Inglewood Mayor James Butts have said that the city’s relationship with these entities is mutually beneficial.Inglewood Could Be Making A Comeback
Both developments are required to provide compensation to the city: $600,000 a year in revenue from The Forum, and $100 million in tax increments toward the Successor Agency from the Hollywood Park Tomorrow project, plus an additional $40 million in tax increments for affordable housing initiatives.
The mayor continues to use city resources to deceive the public and as his supporter Stuart Bailey said during a recent council meeting, “he (Mayor Butts) is becoming an embarrassment”.
A press release detailed the latest filing claiming MSG funded a “phony” grassroots group, Uplift Inglewood, led by D’artagnan Scorza, who is the SAME individual hired by the NFL project developers to push the NFL stadium to residents. Uplift Inglewood members continue to be a constant presence at each week’s Inglewood City Council meetings asking for rent control.
Latham Aided Covert Bid To Quash Stadium, Calif. City Says
By Dave Simpson (May 14, 2019, 11:30 PM EDT) — Latham & Watkins LLP helped orchestrate a campaign to kill a proposed arena for the Los Angeles Clippers, the city of Inglewood said Monday in a bid to subpoena the firm, whose client, the owner of historic concert venue The Forum, is suing the city over an alleged contract breach involving a key piece of land.
The city claims that Forum owner Madison Square Garden Co., with the help of Latham, bankrolled a phony grassroots campaign against the proposed arena and that six Latham attorneys — including at least one member of the counsel who filed the case at hand — and one of their spouses contributed $16,300 to a mayoral candidate challenging the city’s current mayor James T. Butts, who is a defendant alongside the city, in the state court suit.
In Monday’s redacted motion, which was provided to Law360 by Inglewood’s counsel, the city argues that Latham’s alleged orchestration of the anti-arena campaign is not subject to attorney-client privilege.
“Latham was acting as MSG’s political operative — not as legal counsel — in orchestrating MSG’s attacks,” the city said Monday. “Therefore, its communications regarding the conduct at issue are not privileged.”
MSG sued the city and Butts in March, accusing them and other agencies of tricking the company into handing over a plot of land near The Forum they then devoted to the arena for the Clippers.
MSG Forum LLC, a property of The Madison Square Garden Co., accused Butts of urging The Forum’s owner to hand over the parking lot, which it was leasing from the city, so it could be used to build a technology park. In actuality, MSG Forum said, the land was going to be set aside for the competing arena.
In March, MSG Forum’s attorney George J. Mihlsten of Latham & Watkins LLP, told Law360 that by striking a deal to build the new proposed arena down the street from The Forum, Inglewood violated part of a development agreement that prohibited the city from adversely impacting the venue’s competitiveness.
Inglewood shot back Monday, claiming it’s made numerous subpoena requests for information about Latham’s involvement in a number of alleged attacks on the arena but that the firm responded each time “with boilerplate objections and refused to produce a single document.”
Further, the city claims Mihlsten and his wife contributed to the 2018 mayoral campaign of Marc Little, who moved to the city to run for mayor at the behest of MSG and who raked in ten times more cash than Butts with “every penny coming from outside of Inglewood for the sole purpose of taking out an incumbent in favor of a political shill who did not even live in the city.”
In addition to contributions from Mihlsten, his wife and five other Latham attorneys, the city claims that outside money came in to Little from celebrities like billionaire David Geffen, rock singer Joe Walsh, Sylvester Stallone’s wife and Jon Bon Jovi’s son, Romeo. All told, the motion alleges, MSG and Latham were responsible for Little’s nearly $1 million war chest.
Little was the chief operating officer and general counsel of the Faithful Central Bible Church, which previously owned The Forum, when the church sold The Forum to MSG in 2012, the motion notes.
The motion also claims that MSG, through Latham, bankrolled a bogus grassroots organization called “Inglewood Residents Against Takings and Evictions,” or IRATE, which it then used as a front to file suits challenging the arena. MSG and Latham also gave “covert contributions” and coordinated a legal strategy with an organization called Uplift Inglewood Coalition, which also challenged the project in court, the motion claims.
Mihlsten and Latham were in frequent contact with Sugerman Communications Group Inc., a public relations firm that consulted with Uplift and was, alongside Latham, “instrumental in recruiting Little to run for mayor,” the motion claims. Sugerman is not a defendant in the case.
“The above actions directly bear on MSG’s credibility and motivation for bringing the present lawsuit,” the city said. “Accordingly, they are valid and sensible subjects to explore via discovery.”
Skip Miller, of Miller Barondess LLP, which is representing the city of Inglewood, said the request for discovery will expose the alleged MSG “scheme” as “a blatant attempt to kill a potential competitor through a covert campaign of dirty tricks.”
“MSG Forum used misinformation and smear tactics to turn New York voters against a proposed stadium in Manhattan, which then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg was backing as a permanent home for the New York Jets,” he said. “Now MSG is using the same playbook to try to kill another rival arena.”
Latham did not immediately respond to request for comment Tuesday.
The city’s Monday filing is a response to a May 2 report from a discovery referee who recommended that the court deny the city’s motions to compel further discovery from Latham.
Referee Richard Chernick wrote that the information sought by the city is not admissible or sufficiently relevant to the case. Uplift, IRATE and Little have no bearing on the essential facts in dispute in this case, he said.
The city’s motion Monday focuses on a line from Chernick’s report, which notes that he “appreciates defendants’ contentions that the discovery at issue could impact MSG’s credibility with respect to certain of its positions” and that the motivations underlying the suit are also relevant.
“In light of this finding, it is surprising that the discovery referee denied the discovery sought here,” Inglewood said in Monday’s motion. “The fact-finders in this case deserve to know that MSG’s claims in this action are not a limited, earnest attempt to obtain justice, but rather are part of a multi-front battle waged via questionable tactics and baseless legal claims.”
In the May 2 recommendation, Chernick explained that the fatal flaw in its discovery request was that the mechanism for making the request — the service of subpoenas for written discovery from Latham, a nonparty who represents MSG — was improper.
He noted that Inglewood has “less intrusive” means for obtaining discovery.
“Defendants can attempt to obtain (if they have not already attempted to obtain) such discovery from MSG, their actual adversary in this case,” Chernick said earlier this month.
MSG Forum said it was forced to file the suit after the defendants denied allegations against them outlined in a July claim for damages.
During negotiations that took place before MSG Forum ultimately scrapped the parking lot lease, Butts increasingly used his personal email and phone to communicate with MSG Forum to avoid a paper trail of his misdeeds, the suit contends.
After the parking lot lease was scrapped, the suit and the claim allege, the city turned around and on June 15 announced that it intended to enter into an exclusive negotiating agreement with the Clippers-controlled Murphy’s Bowl LLC to build an arena on land that included the now-unleased parking lot.
The suit and claim additionally accuse the city, its agencies and Butts of flouting public meetings laws and the California Environmental Quality Act, and in a July letter, Latham’s Marvin S. Putnam said the deal ran afoul of the development agreement with The Forum after it invested more than $100 million in purchasing and rehabilitating the venue.
As of the filing of the complaint, MSG Forum was represented by George J. Mihlsten, Marvin S. Putnam and Jonathan Jackson of Latham & Watkins LLP.
Inglewood is represented by Louis R. Miller, Mira Hashmall, and Jason H. Tokoro of Miller Barondess LLP and Royce K. Jones of Kane, Ballmer & Berkman.
The case is MSG Forum LLC v. City of Inglewood et al., case number YC072715, in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.