Stockton secretive over cost of show
City says deal with Diamond is confidential
Record Staff Writer
Published Wednesday, Jan 4, 2006
STOCKTON – City Hall won’t say how much it spent booking crooner Neil Diamond at the Stockton Arena, claiming the agreement behind the Jan. 15 gala is a secret.
A taxpayer advocate and experts in public-records laws said the secret deal is illegal.
“At the end of the day, this is public money,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
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City Manager Mark Lewis and Vice Mayor Gary Giovanetti said Tuesday that industry mores and a clause in the Diamond contract forbid the city from disclosing the cost of the show. Giovanetti is the only council member who said he knows the cost.
Giovanetti said Diamond could cancel the performance if the amount were revealed.
“It’s not as though we’re trying to be sinister,” Giovanetti said.
Councilmen Clem Lee and Steve Bestolarides said the city should give the number up.
“If it comes down to upholding some Mickey Mouse Hollywood entertainment code of ethics or being candid with the taxpayers who elected me, then this is a no-brainer,” Lee said.
James Ewert, legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association, said the city’s confidentiality claim is illegal. He said he has rarely seen a city make such a claim, except in Stockton, where it is common.
The city declined in 2004 to announce the amount comedian Jerry Seinfeld earned performing at the Bob Hope Theatre’s Gala Grand Re-Opening. Five years earlier, in 1999, the city asked The Record – and the newspaper agreed in what it said was a one-time deal – to withhold the cost of a Beach Boys concert at Weber Point until after the show. The $35-a-ticket performance cost $75,000.
Secrecy is the norm in the entertainment industry, where performers often earn more or less from one venue to the next, depending on various factors, including how well their agents negotiate. Diamond representatives did not return telephone calls for comment.
While that kind of secrecy is allowed in the privately financed world of show business, state law prohibits such secrecy when a city is involved, Ewert said. The California Public Records Act – which can be used to compel a city to disclose how much money it has paid a plumber, caterer or any other vendor – does not exclude superstar performers, Ewert said.
The Record threatened on Tuesday to petition San Joaquin County Superior Court to pry open the pact. Mayor Ed Chavez said the council likely would meet in a closed session next week to discuss The Record’s legal position.
Councilwoman Rebecca Nabors did not return a call for comment.
Arena officials said ticket sales for the event have been brisk but would not release how many tickets have been sold. Tickets for the show – the 10,000-seat arena’s inaugural musical event – range from $67.75 to $152.75 before additional fees. Floor seats reserved for those who attend the city’s benefit gala before the concert are $5,000 to $10,000 for a table of 10.
Contact reporter David Siders at (209) 943-8580 or firstname.lastname@example.org