Sacramento arena leaders want more than apology from Seattle arena investor Chris Hansen for secretly funding the gathering of signatures for a public vote on a new arena there. They want to make sure those signatures never see the light of day.
Hansen tried to buy the Sacramento Kings and move it to Seattle, but was denied by the NBA. The Kings were then sold to a Sacramento group after a tentative deal for a new downtown arena had been reached. That’s when talk of a ballot measure popped up to put a $258 million arena subsidy to a public vote.
The California Fair Political Practices Commission said Hansen gave $80,000 to pay signature gatherers who were trying to get the measure on next June's ballot, and the group violated state law by refusing to disclose the donation.
Hansen's money was funneled through a Los Angeles law firm. Hansen said the firm approached him about making a contribution to the petition effort after he had hired them to gauge citizen opposition during the battle over the sale.
"I made a mistake I regret," Hansen said in a written statement. "While I'm sure everyone can appreciate how easy it is to get caught up in the heat of battle, with the benefit of hindsight, this is clearly a decision I regret.”
Officials with DowntownArena.org in Sacramento say the apology isn’t enough. They want Hansen to make sure those signatures are never turned over.
“We know you have the ability to meet this request,” said the organization in an open letter to Hansen. “It's not too late to alleviate your mistake. If action is taken swiftly, we can consider this situation no harm, no foul.
“We truly wish Seattle the best and hope that one day soon your desire for an NBA team will be fulfilled because you and Seattle deserve a team, just not ours. But, we also hope you will keep your new commitment to stay out of the Sacramento arena effort. You can do this by not allowing the signatures which you truly own to be submitted,” the group added.
The group is also giving voters who may have signed the petition a way to get out of it. It has posted a form online where voters can ask to have their signature removed.
Hansen and the law firm could face a civil fine of up to $80,000 plus an administrative fine of up to $5,000 for each of at least three campaign-reporting violations, the commission said.