Sadly, Scott McKibben, my friend who I worked to get hired to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Joint Powers Authority (or JPA), has elected to resign from his post as its Executive Director / Consultant, or more formally “Executive Director and CEO” of the stadium authority overseeing the Coliseum and Oracle Arena, and after a closed-door board meeting on Friday. McKibben did so over the matter of the RingCentral Coliseum Naming Rights Deal that he put together.
Here’s my interview with Scott when he first took Oakland Coliseum JPA executive director job:
I will go on the record and say that whoever made the call to ask Scott McKibben to step down, if that’s the case, made one of the biggest, dumbest, stupidest, boneheadedest mistakes in Oakland Sports History. Now, a lot of the future that Scott worked so hard to build at the Oakland Coliseum Complex is up in the air.
First, let’s get what happened out of the way: Scott McKibben was said to have received $50,000 as a kickback for work he did in securing RingCentral, the Bay Area telecommunications firm, as the naming rights holder for the Coliseum Stadium. Scott personally told me he never received a dime from anyone.
That written, the claim is that the $50,000 kickback violates the California Fair Political Practices Commission (CFPPC) Conflict of Interest Laws. But the trouble with that is, if someone was concerned about Scott not being in compliance with the law, why didn’t they just file an exemption with the CFPPC? Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker, who has jurisdiction over the Coliseum JPA, is the one to answer that question.
CFPPC Conflict of Interest Law reads such that all one has to do is meet one, and just one, of five criteria for exemption to the conflict of interest section. Scott fits this listed exemption:
If the agency were to adopt a Conflict of Interest Code, there would be no “designated employees,” within the meaning of Government Code Sections 82019 and 87302(a).
Second, the issue here is that the Coliseum JPA contract McKibben had does not call him an employee; it refers to him as a consultant and an independent contractor. So, the argument that Scott is a public employee, let alone a “designated employee”, fails to hold water. Moreover, the apparent misunderstanding is something that’s fixable; it begs the question why the Coliseum JPA didn’t act to do so. One could make the argument that someone was just looking for something wrong to get rid of Scott.
(In the past, the elected officials who sit on the Coliseum JPA were known for picking executive director candidates they could control, rather than those who were perfect for the job. Scott was the exception to that rule, and you will learn why later in this post. That written, I have been informed that the Coliseum JPA Board was supportive of Scott on Friday. The person / agency that went after him was from outside the JPA.)
Third, as far as I’m concerned, the real crime is that the Oakland Coliseum JPA Board didn’t vote to give McKibben a monetary gift for his work. To get anyone to spend anything more than a million when our sports teams are leaving is more than notable – Scott got RingCentral to commit to $4 million. But this is Oakland, where it’s hard to find people who stand up for anyone else when the political weather gets bad.
This blogger is not one of those people; I stand tall for Scott McKibben, just as I stood for Lynne Longmire in 1996.
Lynne Longmire was a luxury suite salesperson with the Oakland Football Marketing Association (OFMA) in 1996. While the OFMA was tasked with selling personal seat license and luxury suites, there was nothing in writing to stop Longmire from working to engineer the sale of the naming rights to the Coliseum Stadium. To that end, she struck a verbal agreement with OFMA executive and Raiders Legend Jim Otto such that she would get 10 percent of whatever she sold.
Then, Lynne built a relationship with a firm out of Japan called UMAX, and amassed a three-inch thick binder to show her documented communications with the tech firm. The scanner company was poised to pay $19 million to put its name on the stadium, but that got in the way of a number of lease agreement issues between the Oakland Raiders and the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda. Had the deal went through, Lynne would have been owed $1.9 million.
So, the deal never happened, but the question of who would pay Lynne was batted back and forth between the Raiders and the City and the County like a hot potato. Lynne brought her issue to me as the Economic Advisor to Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris. In defense of Lynne, I took the matter to Kofi Bonner, my friend from Cal City Planning days who became Interim City Manager.
Kofi said he wasn’t going to pay the $1.9 million, and the Raiders didn’t want to pay what Lynne was owed. So, Scott’s predicament was basically predestined to happen – the Coliseum JPA has never had a good compensation system for the sale of sponsorships, especially naming rights. (Oh, and for the record, and to keep assholes at bay, Lynne came to me for help as a friend; there was never any request or promise of compensation to me.)
My Own Dysfunctional Experience As In House Oakland Consultant Applies To Scott McKibben
After my time as Economic Advisor to Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris, and during my Super Bowl Oakland work, or 1999 to 2001, the City of Oakland called me a consultant, but treated me as an employee by having me with an office in the City Administration Building (according to the Oakland City Attorney). The point is, the City of Oakland City Attorney’s Office then played fast-and-loose with the definitions, and in my opinion, is still playing fast-and-loose with the definitions today.
In both cases, mine and Scott’s, the person who handled my problem was Barbara Parker for Jayne Williams when she was the Oakland City Attorney and Barbara was one of her deputies. They twice held up my paycheck (and for about four weeks) because they could not figure out if I was a consultant or an employee.
I openly asked Jayne why she felt it necessary to hold up my pay over a problem I didn’t create. I never got an answer from her or from Barbara. It was supposed to be between her and then-City Administrator Robert Bobb.
It’s clear to me that the City of Oakland’s legal office under the same Ms. Parker never resolved that problem, and they let Scott sit in this hybrid “consultant / employee” position without warning regarding what he could and could not do.
That’s some bad stuff right there.
Scott McKibben Has Been An Asset To Oakland Sports
Scott McKibben came to us via a conversation he and I had about the open Coliseum JPA position in early 2014. I’ve known Scott since 1998, when he was publisher of the Oakland Tribune and from 1999-2001 was on my Oakland Alameda County Sports Commission Board and Super Bowl XXXIX Bidding Committee – I headed Oakland’s 2005 Super Bowl Bid.
Given no chance, even by the Oakland City Council and the Mayor of Oakland, or the local and national media at the time, our NFL Super Bowl Bid effort pushed Oakland to be one of three finalist cities alongside Jacksonville and Miami. We lost the 2005 Super Bowl to Jacksonville on the third ballot.
But how we got to that point could not have happened without Scott serving as representative of the Oakland / East Bay Area Business Community and especially at a meeting at NFL Headquaters in 2000. It was our presentation meeting as requested by then NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and on May 10th of 2000. It was Oakland’s time to shine, and with that, we almost blew it.
Then Oakland Mayor and now former California Governor Jerry Brown arrived 20 minutes late, and then left the meeting early, with 40 minutes on the clock, and leaving Commissioner Tagliabue steaming. We were in a quiet panic. The honest fact is Governor Brown did little to make us look good. When he showed up at the NFL meeting, and with Tagliabue and now NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell present, Brown immediately questioned my plan for paying for the Super Bowl Bid via a planned, dual stadium / field $200 million naming rights agreement.
Even though Brown had endorsed the plan the night before, he openly asked Commissioner Tagliabue what he thought of my proposal with me sitting at the head of the table. Paul said he thought it was a good idea, leaving Jerry only to say “oh” – then he left. We needed a savior and we got one.
Scott, sitting at the end of the long boardroom table, responded to my request that he present the business case for the Super Bowl in Oakland; he performed so well that he arguably was the reason we were pushed into “finalist” status. McKibben basically assured that the business community would be there with enough money to put on a great Super Bowl in Oakland.
Fast Forward To 2014 And The Coliseum JPA’s Need For A Leader
Since that time, Scott went on to head the Rose Bowl, and then serve as commissioner of the A-11 Football League my friend Steve Humphries started. Scott wanted to return to the SF Bay Area, saw the opportunity in the form of the posted job as Coliseum JPA Director, and called me.
At that time, the front runner for the job was Mark Hart, who was then and is still the Pittsburgh Steelers Chief Financial Officer. Scott was the second ranked candidate and should have been awared the position, but certain elected officials started playing games with the process. Guy Houston, the former GOP California Assemblyman from Fremont, jumped from nowhere to next in to be hired line behind Hart, who wanted more money than was offered. That was wild.
Houston had no sports business experience to speak of, so while I thank him to this day for endorsing our Super Bowl Oakland Bid in 1999, he was not the person for the Coliseum JPA position, Scott was. A lot of games were played with Scott that almost prevented him from landing the job. In the end, it was revealed that Houston was involved in an alleged elderly fraud scandal, and that took his name out of contention. Scott landed the job.
I can discuss a large number of his accomplishments, but all can be summed up by the number of elected officials who praised Scott’s work, both publicly and privately. Scott understands the business of sports, yet also the business of politics. It’s a tricky line to walk (and not a skill that grows on trees) but Scott did it expertly well.
Now, four year’s later, he’s leaving Oakland, and with his departure comes some unfinished business around football.
What Will Become Of The Indoor Football League And Football In Oakland?
Scott McKibben worked tirelessly to land an Oakland Franchise of the Indoor Football League. He was working out the details behind that deal with Roy Choi, the Managing Partner and Co-Founder at Knighted Ventures, and owner of the San Diego IFL teams called San Diego Strike Force and the Cedar Rapids Titans, just a month ago.
And what about the overall effort to bring in an expansion football team? Scott tried to land the XFL before turning to the IFL, but there are other teams and leagues out there.
And what about the loss of Scott’s great relationship with the Oakland Raiders? It was only via his friendships with Marc Badain and Mark Davis that the Coliseum JPA was able to secure a much higher rent level. Who takes that job on?
Where that is now is not clear, and the JPA’s structure does not allow for someone to just step in and take over where Scott left off. That speaks to how poorly the JPA is structured – it needs to be reconstructed.
Time To Rebuild The Coliseum JPA Into A Larger-Staffed Stadium Authority
When the Coliseum JPA was first created it was strictly as an organizational structure to allow the revenue bond structure to be formed. It had just the Alameda County Administrator and the President Of The Board of Supervisors and the Oakland City Manager and Mayor of Oakland on it – and the meetings were set to be quarterly. Then, the Raiders Personal Seat License (PSL) sales faltered, the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda were on the hook for $20 million a year. Then Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente saw a chance to make a more robust Coliseum JPA, saying “It’s our money, now.”
That led to the creation of the structure that has lasted to this day: two Oakland City Council members and two members of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, with two members each from the business community, and the executive director.
Well, the problem is the Coliseum JPA executive director has no staff. The original Oakland Coliseum organization had a full staff, paid for by proceeds from a public bond issue. Bob Quentella was the executive director and the late George Vukasin ran the Coliseum Board. They did a fantastic job, but Vukasin, who was given the gift of that position by the Oakland City Council in 1983, did a terrible job of keeping the elected officials in the loop. This structure that Scott served under has the elected officials too much involved in the organization, and with that comes a giant set of problems.
The problems are that the politicians are, by nature, spread thin with other concerns and can’t exclusively focus on the needs of the Coliseum Complex. That is left to one person: Scott, in the role of Coliseum JPA executive director.
The new Coliseum JPA should maintain its office at Oracle Arena, but be staffed by the Oakland Economic Development Office. That’s not to say the head of Economic Development should be the Coliseum executive director, but that the new executive director should have the resources of Oakland’s economic development office to draw from – specifically staff support. Not just adminstration but research and management.
Scott McKibben had no team of executive assistants to tap for assignments, let alone step in should he step down. A new organization should clean that problem up, and also have at least two business development positions. The JPA has enough surplus revenue to pay for the new staff positions for the next three years.
The JPA should also have a large sports internship program. What always got me was that Scott didn’t have interns from any of the colleges helping him, but most notably from the Sport Management Program of the University of San Francisco. A new Coliseum JPA should have a robust and large sports internship program.
In closing, Scott McKibben did a lot for the Coliseum JPA. He didn’t need to resign. He was hired as a consultant, and was not a true public official in structure. Moreover, as to the whole deal about a “conflict of interest”, that could and can be solved by applying for a California Fair Political Practices exemption from the California Government Code Government Code Section 87300.
That the lawyers staffing the Coliseum JPA didn’t do that shows the problem we have: the City and County organizations that watch over the JPA do not know what they’re doing. Period.
Scott’s not what’s called a “designated employee,” so he would have qualified for an exemption to avoid any conflict of interest clarm. What the hell’s going on with the Coliseum JPA for the lawyers not to have known that is the question? Sadly, it’s too late fot that now. Scott, will rise into a better place. Oakland is another story.
Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media