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Bitterness still lingers after years-long legal battle is settled between the 49ers and Santa Clara

Bitterness still lingers after years-long legal battle is settled between the 49ers and Santa Clara
Photo Credit: Levi's Stadium
By Wesley Severson - Published on September 02, 2022.

The 49ers and the city of Santa Clara have settled their lawsuits stemming from management issues at Levi’s Stadium, including fraud allegations and a disagreement about concert noise levels. The team sued in 2019 after the city tried to end the 49ers’ stadium management contract. The team filed a lawsuit that stopped the move, but then the city countersued. Since then, there’s been a long and bitter back-and-forth battle between the two parties. The team had been trying to settle the dispute over the past few weeks, first offering the city $3.3 million and then upping the ante to $4 million at the end of last month. On Wednesday, interim City Attorney Steve Ngo announced that the city had accepted the 49ers settlement after the team kicked in another $325,000.

Wednesday’s announcement came as somewhat of a shock because of some nasty exchanges at the City Council meeting the night before. According to The Chronicle, Mayor Lisa Gillmor and council member Anthony “had an angry exchange during the open portion of the meeting, punctuated by Becker accusing the mayor of ‘political theater’ and leaking information to the media.” 

Later, when the meeting went into a closed-door session, things got even more intense. Becker apparently yelled, “F— you!” at council member Kathy Watanabe and then flipped off Watanabe and Gillmor. Gillmor says Watanabe left the meeting, and then things got so heated that Gillmor called the police on Becker. “He continued verbally assaulting me. It just went on and on, to the point I felt so uncomfortable, and I wasn’t going to take the abuse. So I stood up and left. I called the police because it was obvious he was having huge anger issues. The flipping off and the F-bomb took it to another level that was shocking. I’ve never seen anything like that,” Gillmor told The Chronicle. 

Becker hasn’t commented directly about what happened. He and Gillmor are running against each other in November’s mayoral election, and Becker has always sided with the 49ers on issues with Levi’s Stadium. Becker, along with fellow council members Suds Jain and Kevin Park, were elected to the council in 2020 with the help of 49ers CEO Jed York, who dumped $2.9 million into the race. On Tuesday, the York-endorsed trio voted against a proposal from Watanabe to discuss the settlement in an open session and to get an independent analysis of the situation.

Watanabe told the Mercury News that accepting the settlement was a bad idea. “It’s irresponsible for us to accept financial numbers from the team when they have never been open and transparent with the city about their accounting. We owe it to ourselves and the public to act with good and honest information,” she said. Becker told the Mercury News, “We took away a lot of litigation that was costing our residents a lot of money. We have a 27 million dollar deficit. When the mayor often talks about giving sweetheart deals to the 49ers, I think she was really trying to give sweetheart deals to the attorneys.”

Now that the legal wrangling seems to be put to rest, the bitterness between Becker and allies Gillmor and Watanabe is still lingering. Gillmor hasn’t said yet that she would file a police report, but she told The Chronicle that she will be filing a human relations complaint with the city over Becker’s behavior.