Rose Bowl `Secret’ Report Unforced Error

It’s never the crime, always the “secret report.”

While the only crime here could be to taxpayers, despite Pasadena officials promises to the contrary, the city seems to be ignoring the usual rule of public relations: When bad news comes, get it out, regardless of what the lawyers say. Politicians will pay the political price while attorneys continue to collect their billable hours anyway if they hide it.

It’s simple: Don’t let the media frame the bad news before you can. The media usually will find out anyway, and it will focus on the agency that should be open and transparent rather than the alleged guilty party.

In this case, the ire is being directed at Pasadena and the ever-expanding Rose Bowl renovation project cost.

Reporter Brenda Gazzar revealed how a “secret report” details how the original projected budget, which was pegged at $152 million, should have been higher, closer to $200 million, and that project team officials should have known it. The lower number was the one touted to the public in 2010.

This should hardly be a surprise to anyone. Critics have pointed out that the overreaching and unrealistic expectations were coupled with underestimated cost projections since the project was first unveiled.

So, shocker, a third-party review agreed. The reaction from Pasadena is “pay no attention to that report. We know everything about it but can’t show it to you.”

Pasadena officials, including Mayor Bill Bogaard, are hiding behind questionable legal interpretations and are just making the situation worse. The mayor even said that the report will be released once litigation linked to the renovations is “ruled out.” What happens if litigation is not ruled out? Will the report be made public then?

No offense to the mayor, but the California Public Records Act decides what has to be made public and when, not the mayor of Pasadena.

Open government advocates Terry Francke and Gil Aguirre have already pointed out that the city’s position is shaky at best, deceptive at worst. Francke points out that the city’s position that the report is exempt because it’s litigation “work product” is a ruse to keep it from being made public. Aguirre notes that the report’s original purpose was based on concerns of how things were being run. To now claim it’s part of the litigation process, said Aguirre, is “absurd.”

City Councilman Victor Gordo, president of the Rose Bowl Operating Company, created an ad hoc committee that instigated the report. (Note that ad hoc committees are exempt from following state open meeting laws.)

He said, without a hint of sarcasm, that the project was “well planned.”

Coming after news in December that Pasadena Unified School District’s construction project is a mess, I’m not sure that Pasadena residents would agree anyone in Pasadena government can ever plan a construction project well.

But have no fear, Gordo found a silver lining: “… these aren’t overruns.”

Right. The cost overruns will be detailed in the next secret report.

Originally posted in the Pasadena Star News

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