In the wake of now former Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Joint Powers Authority Executive Director Scott McKibben, now my friend Henry Gardner comes to the rescue.
And now we have to save Henry. But first, what really happened to Scott?
Don’t believe the mainstream media account because having documents only counts if you know how to understand them in the context of the total story: what happened was that Scott McKibben engineered the RingCentral Naming Rights Deal. As is common for any business transaction of that type, the person is normally paid a fee of some type.
All anyone with a research bent has to do is go back and look at all of the naming rights marketing partners the Coliseum JPA has done: a compensation fee for the consultant was always paid when a deal was done.
For no one to think that should have not been the case for Scott, who’s the consultant, is crazy. And for the Coliseum JPA Board and lawyers to let Scott go out and do a deal that the lawyers knew should not have been done is crazier still. Were they trying to set Scott up?
As this space has pointed out, 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, several times now, he never received a dime from anyone – and told them to keep the money, too.
News-flash: Scott never received any money. No fee was paid. Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley has better things to do than to pick on Scott McKibben. Anyone who calls Scott a public employee is just plain talking out of their hind-quarters. Scott was a consultant, and it’s the fault of both the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda that such a bare-bones, no checks, free-agent-until-you-do-something-that-might-make-me-look-bad, system was in place.
Again, 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.
And here’s the skinny: unlike many other naming rights marketing organizations, for some reason, the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Joint Powers Authority had the crazy idea that the naming rights deal that board dispatched him to put together should not come with any kind of monetary reward for a job well done.
What do they do instead? Find a way to get rid of Scott. That, after bringing the Coliseum JPA the best naming rights deal it ever saw at just over $1 million a year.
Scott McKibben Not Guilty Of Double Dealing Because Coliseum JPA Approved Him As Naming Rights Consultant
Since the Coliseum JPA Board gave Scott approval to go after the naming rights deal, no one can say Scott was “self-dealing.” In other words, Scott didn’t place himself in the position of naming rights consultant without Coliseum JPA board approval. In fact, two board members told me that they were supportive of Scott, and pointed the finger at the Oakland City Attorney. So, this is not the classic case of “self-dealing”.
Just follow the money: Scott is paid as a consultant by the Coliseum JPA, which then gives him the go-ahead to get the RingCentral naming rights deal. McKibben gets it, then asks for a finders fee, just as all other Coliseum JPA Naming Rights Consultants have received in the past – and the current Coliseum JPA board knows it. Scott has said more than once he had no idea the request was wrong, and no one gave him any contractual warning or verbal disclaimer – even as they were talking about it.
One thing the neurotics looking at this tend to forget: people make mistakes.
Remember Lynne Longmire From The Oakland Football Marketing Association
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.)
Note: no one questioned if Lynne should get the $1.9 million. No one mentioned the California Fair Political Practices Commission law. For someone to come in and insist that this is an act of deliberate wrong doing makes me just plain sick. The Coliseum JPA Board approved of Scott being the consultant and doing the work. It had every chance to warn him of the legal issues involved – if the lawyers were in the room at the time, then for them to turn on Scott is just plain unethical.
A Good Naming Rights Deal Done And Not Rewarded
That putting a name on the vaunted Oakland Coliseum Stadium could come so cheap, and yet be so good, just shows you how bad the state of sports business is, and has been, in Oakland.
This brings us to how completely and stupidly structured the Coliseum JPA was to set up an experienced sport management person as an independent contractor who’s also the executive director. If anyone cares to look at Scott’s contract, he’s called a “consultant”.
It’s the fault of both the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda in not having any kind of personnel management structure that this scenario happened. And, as proof that neither organization cares to correct the problem, guess what? The situation still exists!
It’s left to my friend former Oakland City Manager Henry Gardner to repair. Let’s give Henry the help and support he needs.
Henry, I’m praying for you.
A friend of mine, another former City of Oakland employee with stellar sports business credentials, recently said this: “Oakland. Where no good deed goes unpunished.”
Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media