Lawsuit threatens San Diego Convention Center expansion plan

Group accuses ex-mayor of illegal negotiations

SAN DIEGO - A lawsuit filed in state Superior Court in downtown San Diego could delay expansion plans for the city’s convention center.

The Coalition for Fair Employment filed suit in April seeking access to the City’s public records regarding the San Diego Convention Center expansion.  A trial is set for July 12 to determine what documents the city must produce. In its latest pleading, the coalition alleged then-San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders’ office set up a secret email account to negotiate a project labor agreement with then-labor leader Lorena Gonzalez.

Sanders is now the CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and Gonzalez is now a member of the state Assembly.

At its heart, the lawsuit claims the secret e-mail accounts hid negotiations with Gonzalez. Shortly after those alleged negotiations, the city reached a project labor agreement (PLA) with labor unions for the convention center construction. The Coalition told 10News this violated Proposition A, a voter-approved measure that makes all city projects open to bid to everyone -- both union and non-union.

Plans are in the works to expand the convention center to 430,000 square feet at a cost of $520 million.

In a statement released to 10News, Sanders said:

“While it is typical for lawsuits to be filed against civic projects such as this, I do not comment on lawsuits against the city of San Diego. I still strongly support the Convention Center expansion plan because of the significant impact that it will have on our local economy and tourism industry."

A spokesman for Gonzalez sent 10News this statement:

“Ms. Gonzalez doesn’t know about these so-called secret email accounts and finds the storyline of the lawsuit hard to believe. This sounds like another act of desperation by the same handful of anti-worker companies who are doing everything they can to drive down wages for local workers.”

Coalition members declined to speak to 10News because they have asked to meet with city representatives to discuss pre-trial settlement.


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