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DA’s Office: Inglewood Violated Law in Launching Clippers Arena Talks

Los Angeles Clippers

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office says Inglewood officials violated California open meetings laws when launching Los Angeles Clippers (NBA) arena negotiations, but it is too late to issue a penalty.

Inglewood began an exclusive 36-month negotiating period with Clippers-controlled entity Murphy’s Bowl, LLC in the summer of 2017, with discussions revolving around a privately financed arena and surrounding development on city-owned land along West Century Boulevard. The project is currently under environmental review and has not been finalized, but the discussions have prompted backlash from some circles.

In response to a March 2018 complaint filed on behalf of Inglewood Residents Against Takings and Evictions (IRATE), the Los Angeles County DA’s Office undertook an investigation to determine whether Inglewood violated California’s open meetings law, known as the Brown Act, when voting to launch the negotiating period. An opinion from the DA’s Office stated that the open-meeting law was violated, noting that not enough information was included in the initial Inglewood City Council agenda item. Under different circumstances the DA’s Office would be able to void the city council’s action, but the complaint was received after the statute of limitations had passed. More from Curbed Los Angeles:

When the City Council voted to enter into an “exclusive negotiating agreement” with the owners of the Clippers in June 2017, it did not include in its meeting agenda a description about the location of the proposed arena or the scope of the project, according to Deputy District Attorney Bjorn Dodd.

“The deficiency of the agenda descriptions appears to have been part of concerted efforts between representatives of the city and the Murphy’s Bowl LLC to limit the notice given to the public,” Dodd wrote in the letter, dated May 17. Murphy’s Bowl is a Clippers-owned company.

The DA’s office found that the omissions amount to a violation of the Brown Act, California’s open meeting law. But Dodd said the complaint was received by the office too late to take action.

Had it been received on time, the City Council’s decision to enter into negotiations could have been deemed “null and void,” Dodd wrote.

In response, a city attorney claimed in a statement that any violation would have been corrected by later votes on the negotiating period. More from the Daily Breeze:

In a statement, Royce Jones, an attorney for the city, called the letter a “tired accusation that has been rendered irrelevant.”

According to Jones, Inglewood fixed the violation by voting on the exclusive negotiating agreement again in July and August 2017.

The city opted to vote again because a group backed by Madison Square Garden accused the city of violating the Brown Act, Jones claimed. The city did not believe it did anything wrong and stated the additional votes were to avoid “the possibility of unnecessary litigation,” according to a memo provided by the city.

“The third party complaint that generated the D.A.’s opinion is just another tactic in a smear campaign by those bent on preventing the Los Angeles Clippers from building a new area in Inglewood,” Jones stated.

The vision the Clippers are trying to push forward is a new arena in Inglewood that would give the club its own facility. Currently the Clippers are part of a busy slate at downtown Los Angeles’s Staples Center that also includes the NBA’s Lakers and NHL’s Kings, with the Clippers’ lease for the venue set to expire in 2024.

In the period since the proposed Inglewood arena became public, however, it has been met with several legal challenges. That includes lawsuits from Madison Square Garden Co.–owner of Inglewood’s Forum–as well as the Uplift Inglewood Coalition and IRATE.

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