The City of Charlotte has been sued for violating open meetings laws in connection with the negotiations that culminated in a deal to renovate Bank of America Stadium.
And the plaintiffs in that litigation now have a potential smoking gun.
Via WFAE-FM radio, Charlotte City Council had admitted that Panthers owner Jerry Richardson attended council sessions that were closed to the public.
Specifically, Richardson attended two of the four closed sessions (commonly known as “executive sessions”) during which the use of taxpayer money to upgrade the stadium Richardson owns was discussed.
“I don’t know if it was appropriate or not, but it was important to him,” Councilman Andy Dulin said, indicating that he has yet to figure out the primary purpose of, you know, legal services. “It must have been of importance because he did show up – you know that put an exclamation point on the seriousness of the negotiations that some might not have done. I appreciated him being there.”
Councilman Michael Barnes comes much closer to admitting that City Council screwed the proverbial pooch on this one.
“I thought Jerry Richardson had a very good personal story to tell about what he was trying to do with the team and where he was trying to place the team long-term, so I wanted that to be much more public than it was, and I still think that we should have made more of it public,” Barnes said. “I think it hurt the transparency piece from a public perspective and public confidence, but I don’t think it hurt the negotiation.”
Open meetings laws aren’t about negotiations, they’re about transparency in government. Richardson found a way to force his way behind the curtain, at a time when the public otherwise was kept out.
It’s hard to fault Richardson for taking advantage of the situation. Success in life often flows from showing up in places where you aren’t supposed to be, and essentially daring someone else to politely tell you to get the hell out.
No one told Richardson to get the hell out, and now City Council will inevitably have to deal with the likelihood that their defense in the pending lawsuit won’t be successful.