OAKLAND — The authority that runs O.Co Coliseum and the Oracle Arena plans on Friday to tap a former Republican lawmaker to be its new executive director, even though decade old fraud allegations and his lack of stadium development experience gave some board members pause.
One plan is to invite the help of high-profile consultant Robert Bobb, a former Oakland city administrator who had pushed for a downtown A’s stadium before then-Mayor Jerry Brown ousted him in 2003.
Bobb went on to work as an emergency manager of Detroit schools and helped secure a new baseball stadium for the Nationals after the franchise relocated to Washington, D.C.The joint powers authority governing the East Oakland stadium complex intends to talk Friday about consulting with Bobb. But its more immediate business is whether to hire Houston, who is now a lobbyist.
A group of investors in 2004 sued Houston over money lost in a land deal through his father Fred Houston’s company, which went bankrupt in 2003. The assemblyman consistently denied the allegations and sought to distance himself from his father’s business.The lawsuit was settled, but Coliseum board members were not informed of the case when they took an initial vote last week approving him for the $250,000 a year post.
Houston declined in an interview to talk about the case. He instead touted his work as mayor facilitating the development of new homes and offices in eastern Dublin, a plan that resembles what some baseball and football fans hope to see surrounding new sports parks in East Oakland. Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, who chairs the Coliseum Authority, said he would likely support Houston’s candidacy despite having abstained on a preliminary vote.
“I think it’s better to show that there is a united front,” he said.
In addition to possibly bringing aboard Houston and Bobb, the Coliseum authority at Miley’s behest on Friday will discuss expanding its mandate from managing the Coliseum’s facilities to taking the lead in the planning for new sports stadiums. Any expansion of its powers would need approval from political leaders in Oakland and Alameda County, which jointly own the 120-acre Coliseum complex.
Miley’s push to give the Coliseum authority the leading role in stadium development comes as the city is deciding whether or not to extend its agreement to negotiate exclusively on stadium development projects at the site with a development group headed by real estate titan Colony Capital.
The agreement is set to expire Tuesday. After months of inaction, several city sources said a new investor, whose name they would not disclose, met with top city officials last week and was seriously considering pouring money into a new football stadium for the Raiders.
Since the 8-member Coliseum authority, known as the JPA, includes both city and county representatives, Miley said it was better positioned to handle development talks.
“I’m trying to funnel everything through one conduit so we have a single point of contact in negotiations to help us keep our sports teams,” he said.
City leaders, who sparred with Miley over a lease extension for the Oakland A’s earlier this year, appear cool to his proposals both to expand the Coliseum board’s power and to bring in Bobb as an adviser.
“They don’t have the authority to hire someone to advise them on stadium development because their powers do not extend to any redevelopment of the Coliseum site,” City Council President Pat Kernighan said. “Robert Bobb would not be a bad person to pick if you are in that business, but the JPA should not be in that business.”
Author: Matt O’Brien and Matthew Artz.