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May 27, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, May 27, 2005

Clear Channel: Hand it over Clear Channel: Hand it over (May 27, 2005)

Company slaps city with several public records requests

By Jon Wiener

Relations between Mountain View and media giant Clear Channel Communications continue to worsen, as the Texas-based corporation begins its depositions of city employees and wrangles with the city over pages and pages of documents.

Last Tuesday, a lawyer for Bill Graham Presents, purchased by Clear Channel in 2000, filed six public records requests with the city. The requests demanded documentation of everything -- including how much the city is planning to spend on the case.

Said city attorney Michael Martello, "That's like asking the other side in a war, 'How many bullets do you have left?'"

After seeing quotes by Rosemary Stasek and Mike Kasperzak in an April 22 Voice article, the company sent notices that it planned to take depositions from each of them, according to Martello. (Stasek is in Afghanistan.) One of the public records requests asked for any documents that Stasek and city finance director Bob Locke relied on in making the statements reported in the Voice.

Another of the requests asked to see every single complaint over a five-year period lodged by the public in regards to problems at Shoreline, the city-owned amphitheater.

Martello said the company's tactic amounted to little more than harassment. In one of his responses to the company -- to a request for documents regarding how much the city has spent on the lawsuit -- Martello blasted the company's lawyer for "the avalanche of paperwork that you folks have been generating lately in an attempt to obscure the real issues in this case."

Martello said that company already had most of the information it was requesting, with the exception of the public safety and traffic complaints.

"They're putting the spin on this thing to cover up what could be a pretty serious lawsuit," Martello told the Voice.

In a statement, Shoreline general manager Matt Prieshoff said the company was forced to file the requests after the city failed to provide the information in the discovery phase of the lawsuit.

"This is standard practice when a citizen or a business is in a lawsuit with the government," the statement read. "We are unsure why there would be any resistance to requests for information that Mountain View residents, businesses, and the general public are entitled to under California law."

To meet Clear Channel's request, staff members in several city departments put together every record available of complaints about Shoreline Amphitheater, compiling them into a half-inch-thick docket reminiscent of a rap sheet. Among them: * In a five-year period, Mountain View police reported 69 incidents of battery, 69 cases of public drunkenness, 30 cases of grand theft, and 48 more cases of petty theft. * In response to several brawls and other disturbances during and after the KMEL Summer Jam (a hip-hop show put on by a Clear Channel-owned station) in August 2000, the city's police worked more than 800 officer-hours to control the crowds the following year, billing Bill Graham Presents for more than $46,000. * A litany of letter-writers detailed traffic problems and smoking and drug violations. After a July 2002 show by the rock band Yes, for example, one fan of the band wrote the city in disgust, "I have NEVER seen such open and plentiful use of marijuana in my life." * Three men suffered stab wounds at a May 2003 concert sponsored by local classic rock station 107.7 the Bone. * Residents of nearby Santiago Villa mobile home park complained that clean-up crews were neglecting to pick up trash concertgoers left on their street. * The company apparently did not have a building permit for Lucky's BBQ, the site of a structure fire in October. * An anonymous woman accused a security staffer of fondling her breasts at last month's Alan Jackson concert.

What Clear Channel intends to do with all this information is unclear, though the safety of the amphitheater is one of the disputed points in the lawsuit. After buying out Bill Graham Presents, the company sued to stop Mountain View from making its annual audits of the amphitheater's finances.

In response, the city filed a countersuit, alleging that the company was hiding revenues from the city by assessing a parking fee to each ticket rather than to those who actually park at the amphitheater. Both sides have accused the other of violating the terms of the lease.

Clear Channel's lawyers have already begun deposing city employees in the case, scheduled for trial early next year.

A preliminary ruling is expected Thursday after a pre-trial hearing regarding Clear Channel's insistence that the boxes of records it has given the city remain confidential. The company is also pushing to disqualify a former city employee who worked at the amphitheater from testifying for the city.

E-mail Jon Wiener at jwiener@mv-voice.com


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