Arena update - STOP's possible petition recount and more

Report says petition signature verification process may need to start over because anti-arena group turned in up to eight different versions.

There are quite a few things to catch up on regarding the new downtown Sacramento arena.

Here we go.

STOP's (Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork) petition to put the financing plan for the arena on the November ballot may be in more trouble. According to Aaron Bruski of NBC Universal, the group turned in up to eight different versions of the petition, which could cause the signature verification process to be restarted.

On Monday, a letter was released from an attorney with The4000 group that called STOP's petitions into question. The letter suggested that STOP turned in at least five different versions of the petition last month to the city of Sacramento and violated election code.

On Thursday, City Clerk, Shirley Concolino, would neither confirm nor deny the report about there being eight different versions, but told Sactown Royalty, "we always have the option of evaluating the process as things progress dependent upon findings." Should the process need to be restarted, Concolino said that would not change the timeframe in which the verification process would need to be completed. That means a final count/decision would still need to be made on the petition by 5 p.m. on Jan. 23.

Interestingly, the county, which has been providing daily updates on the signature verification numbers, sent an e-mail out Thursday saying, "There will be no update tonight - we will continue with the updates tomorrow."

Jill LaVine, county registrar of voters, has confirmed there are different versions, but has not said how many.

On Wednesday, LaVine reported that 8,518 of STOP's signatures had been checked. Of those, 5,767 were valid, or 67.7 percent. They would need a 62 percent validity rate (22,000 valid signatures) for it to qualify for the ballot.

STOP turned in around 35,200 signatures in December.

The STOP campaign has been riddled with suspicion. It was largely funded with a $100,000 donation from Seattle's Chris Hansen and questions have been raised about the way in which the signatures were collected dating back several months.

The news of there being eight different versions of the petition may change things considerably moving forward if the counting process does indeed restart. And there is a strong chance this thing could end up in the courts.

Speaking of the courts, News10's Nick Monacelli first reported on Thursday that a final ruling will be made in the coming days over a lawsuit filed by attorneys Jeff Anderson and Patrick Soluri over the arena financing plan. The attorneys are accusing the city of  "secret deals" involved in the arena term sheet and City Councilman Kevin McCarty is caught up in it.

Here is Tony Bizjak of The Sacramento Bee with more.

A Sacramento Superior Court judge today told arena deal foes he will decide in the next few days whether to allow them to question City Councilman Kevin McCarty under oath to support their contention that there was a secret deal between some city officials and the new Kings ownership group to help it buy the team.

City officials contend there is no such secret deal, and that McCarty should not be compelled to testify for what a city attorney called a waste of time. Arena deal opponents, however, argued in court Thursday that they believe McCarty and at least one other city official, Economic Development Director Jim Rinehart, may be able to provide evidence that the city tossed some secret "sweeteners" into its agreement with the Kings to jointly finance a $448 million downtown arena.

Here's Dawn McIntosh, an attorney representing the city, on the lawsuit, via The Bee.

Dawn McIntosh of the Meyers Nave law firm, ripped into Soluri's assertions in the court hearing, saying his efforts are "a waste of everyone's time."

"There is simply no fraud here," she said.

To view the tentative ruling, click here.

Also on Thursday, the city of Sacramento filed an eminent domain lawsuit to take control of the old Macy's building (600 K Street) in Downtown Plaza for the arena. This was expected as the Sacramento City Council voted 7-2 in favor of the move on Tuesday.

UPDATE (Jan. 10 at 7 p.m.)

The county of Sacramento confirmed Friday that the signature verification process was restarted. Neither county or city officials would say exactly how many different versions of STOP's petition were discovered.

The county said it has now checked 2,803 signatures and that 1,943 of them are valid, or a 69.3 percent validity rate. 113 of the 2,803 signatures were withdrawals from Downtownarena.org/Crown Downtown's petition withdrawal forms.

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