SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8/CNS) - San Diego State University officials Sunday disputed claims made by SoccerCity investors that a former city official has a conflict of interest in the redevelopment of the Qualcomm Stadium site in Mission Valley.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Sunday on the claims of FS Investors, the group behind the SoccerCity plan. They claimed former San Diego City Manager Jack McGrory had a conflict advising the university on a possible role in the stadium deal.
SoccerCity's investors claimed McGrory was supposedly connected to a different group of investors interested in getting an NFL team back in San Diego. That group includes Doug Manchester, a politically-connected hotel developer and former owner of the Union-Tribune.
"He's been working with another group while simultaneously representing the interest of the university," said SoccerCity's Nick Stone.
They point to a letter recently sent by that group to NFL owners which includes McGrory's name on it.
They say after he began advising the SDSU, talks broke down.
"One day after our very first meeting with Jack, the university came out with its first real negative statement about the potential prospect for this project to work," said Stone. "There's been effectively nothing with the university, it's sadly played out through you the press, which is not a healthy negotiating dynamic."
He says since then, the university has refused to negotiate.
"As it relates to the NFL letter, Jack was not accurately represented in the letter and has no involvement in the Manchester proposal, as confirmed by Doug Manchester himself to the U-T this week," SDSU spokeswoman Gina Jacobs said in a statement released Sunday.
McGrory spoke to News 8 via phone.
"Nick Stone has a great imagination, he can make up stuff that's absurd at times," McGrory said. "And this is one of those episodes."
He says he never saw that letter, doesn't know how his name ended up on it and says he is not a part of that group.
"At no point have I ever had a business relationship with Papa Doug Manchester," said McGrory. "And have never had discussions with him about bringing a team to Qualcomm."
He also says the university decided to split from SoccerCity before he got involved, and that's because, their plan simply doesn't benefit the university. He says the SoccerCity people have reached a point of desperation.
"It's a terrible deal for city, and it's not a good deal for SDSU," said McGrory.
Jacobs referred to a "false narrative" by FS Investors about why SDSU ended negotiations over the proposed project.
"This is a complete fabrication of the events that led to SDSU ending discussions with FS," Jacobs said. "The university worked for two years in hopes of reaching a compromise with FS Investors first to secure a shared stadium and then, once we learned they intended to develop the entire site, in hopes of having a SDSU expansion be part of their proposed development.
"When the initiative was published in February, we had all but reached the conclusion that there was not a fair and equitable deal to be reached. This is due in part to being unable to get a formal letter of intent from FS that reflected our verbal agreements and also because we were never able to review the final initiative language despite multiple requests," the statement continued.
"The initiative is the only legally binding document that matters. It would trump any letter of intent per the city attorney's analysis and the initiative's own language that specifically says there can be no third party beneficiary to the lease agreement with the city.
"As a final effort and at the direct request of Mayor Kevin Faulconer's office, we asked Jack McGrory and Kit Sickles, two valued members of The Campanile Foundation, to provide some outsider perspective on whether we had reached the appropriate conclusion or if there may still be a deal to be had," the statement said.
"After multiple meetings with representatives of the Mayor's office, Jack and Kit came back to us in May having reached the same conclusion (there was no fair and equitable deal to be reached).
"At that point, the leadership team briefed our incoming president and we formally ended negotiations,'' the statement said.
On Monday, Nick Stone with FS Investors also addressed the land appraisal for the Qualcomm Stadium site. He says they were shocked by the appraisal which was actually more than double what they expected, however the group felt the project was too good to pass up.
Now in order to move things forward FS Investors plan to ask the city council Monday to give San Diegans the chance to vote on the project.
The city council was also meeting Monday to decide if a special election will be held this year.
If they agree to that then next week they will decide if the SoccerCity plan will be on that ballot.
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