.Another Unnecessary Sports Expense

Despite losing all three of its sports teams, the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Authority has decided to pay nearly $1 million to an executive director it doesn’t need.

In early 2015, when P. Scott McKibben was appointed executive director of the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum Authority, he said his mission was clear, particularly in light of the fact that the Golden State Warriors had already announced they were moving to San Francisco. “My goal is to keep the A’s and the Raiders in Oakland,” McKibben said at the time.

But less than three years later, McKibben, a former publisher of the Oakland Tribune and ex-chief of the Rose Bowl, has largely failed to complete his mission or justify his $250,000 annual salary. Earlier this year, the Raiders announced that they’re moving to Las Vegas, and earlier this month, the A’s revealed that they intend to build a new ballpark next to Laney College. As such, the Coliseum property, which McKibben is in charge of overseeing, will likely no longer host a sports team by early next decade.

Nonetheless, the Coliseum Authority board of directors voted on Sept. 15 to award McKibben a 20-percent raise to $300,000 a year retroactive to last February, make his contract guaranteed, and extend it to 2020. Authority members hastily approved McKibben’s new pact after learning that he had been offered $300,000 a year to be the head of the Santa Clara County stadium authority, which oversees the San Francisco 49ers stadium.

In an interview, McKibben said the authority board convinced him to stay and that there is plenty of work for him to do over the next three years.

County supervisor Scott Haggerty, who led the effort to retain McKibben, also defended the decision, saying McKibben has done an “excellent job.”

“I think he’s a terrific individual, and he’s needed,” said Haggerty.

But Haggerty struggled to explain exactly why he thinks McKibben is needed, considering the fact that all three sports teams are leaving, or why McKibben warranted a raise and a contract extension. Haggerty contended that the Raiders’ departure was not McKibben’s fault, because city and county officials were in charge of negotiations to keep the team. Haggerty also declined to assign blame for the A’s’ decision to relocate. The moves, along with the Warriors’ departure, could leave the city and county on the hook for more than $175 million in bond debt on the Coliseum and Arena. (McKibben can’t be faulted for the debt; it was incurred in the 1990s to refurbish the facilities and keep the Raiders and Warriors from leaving then.)

Haggerty also had difficulty describing why he considers McKibben to be essential if he wasn’t involved in the negotiations to keep the Raiders from leaving. Instead, Haggerty argued that journalists would’ve criticized the Coliseum Authority if it had let McKibben go.

Oakland City Council President Larry Reid also defended McKibben’s new contract. “Even though we were unable to save the Raiders, he was invaluable to us,” Reid said. “Scott did a great job.”

Reid noted that McKibben led the negotiations for a Raiders’ lease extension in 2016, and he will likely need to negotiate another one, because the Raiders’ new stadium in Vegas won’t be completed until 2020. The Coliseum Authority also has a fight with the Warriors over the terms of the Arena lease. The authority maintains that the Warriors must pay off the remainder of the debt on the Arena when the team leaves in 2019, but the Warriors have disputed that assertion. (As for the A’s, their lease at the Coliseum runs through 2024, and team President Dave Kaval said last week that they hope to open their new ballpark near downtown by 2023.)

In other words, there’s actually not a lot for McKibben to do to earn his $300,000 guaranteed salary. Although McKibben argued that the A’s’ planned move to the Laney site is not yet a done deal, Kaval has made it clear that the team is now focused solely on that spot. In addition, the dispute with the Warriors is a legal matter that will require attorneys to hammer out — not an executive director. And a Raiders extension shouldn’t be too difficult to reach, considering the fact that the team has nowhere else to play. Plus, McKibben isn’t needed to run the day-to-day operations of the facility: a private company, Anschutz Entertainment Group, does that. Last year, the Coliseum Authority reported paying $1.75 million to AEG to manage the facilities, records show.

The Coliseum Authority, in short, had no compelling reason to keep McKibben. It could have easily hired a consultant to handle the Raiders’ extension. And with all the teams leaving, it should’ve started the process of winding down its functions. In a few years, it will no longer have a legitimate reason to exist. (McKibben, in fact, agreed that in four years, the authority’s usefulness will likely expire.)

But, unfortunately, the Coliseum Authority has a long history of wasting public funds. Exhibit A was last year’s ticket scandal, in which the Bay Area News Group revealed that city and county officials had claimed more than 7,000 Warriors tickets as a lucrative perk in the past three years — valued at $7.8 million — using them for themselves and family for favored donors and causes.

And awarding $900,000 to an unnecessary executive director for the next three years is just more of the same.


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