As the Rams return to L.A. and prepare to eventually move into a swanky new home in Inglewood, a new vehicle has emerged for potentially peeling back the curtain on exactly how the deal got done.
Regardless of its ultimate merit, a federal lawsuit filed by Inglewood’s former budget and accounting manager could result in the public disclosure of plenty of documents and information and testimony and other stuff that Inglewood, the Rams, and/or the NFL would prefer the public not see.
Via Angel Jennings of the Los Angeles Times, Barbara Ohno alleges that Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts (pictured) instructed employees to “create a faςade of financial responsibility and well-being” for Inglewood during the competition with Carson for the privilege of putting a football stadium within city limits. Ohio claim that Inglewood regularly used money from a federal Asset Forfeiture Fund to pay for expenses that could not be covered by the Inglewood General Fund.
Butts strongly denied the allegations, claiming that “[t]he city undergoes rigorous and thorough audits by an outside audit firm.” Butts also pointed out that Ohno was simply a probationary employee who was let go before her probationary period ended.
Of course, her status won’t matter, if Ohno can prove that her job ended because, for example, she complained internally about irregularities like the alleged use of the Asset Forfeiture Fund for unauthorized expenses. In most American jurisdictions, employees of public and private institutions are protected against retaliation for raising concerns that the employer would prefer to not be raised, by anyone at any time.
Ohno alleges that Butts labeled her a “troublemaker,” which is one of the ingredients for proving improper retaliation.
“I was told to stand down, look the other way and be a team player because when Inglewood got the Rams, there would be so much money coming in, no one would care how the city ran its finances,” Ohno said in a statement, via the Times.
The lawsuit primarily will focus on: (1) exploring the accounting details; and (2) developing evidence (such as email messages and texts) showing that Ohno complained about financial issues and/or that Butts raised concerns about her complaints.
Along the way, email or other communications between the city, the Rams, and the NFL could come to light. Thanks to the defect in human nature that routinely results in people reducing to writing things they’d never say while sitting in a witness box, it makes sense for every media outlet in Southern California to scour each and every document filed in court throughout the life of Ohno’s lawsuit.