City Blame Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis
posted by July 1 at 14:03 PMon
Mayor Greg Nickels’s administration thrives on cutesy political subterfuges orchestrated by Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis. It’s how they roll.
When tomorrow’s big Sonics decision comes down—arguably an administration-defining moment for Team Nickels—U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman may find that Ceis’s penchant for political chicanery rolled the city right out of bounds.
The main argument that Sonics CEO Clay Bennett’s lawyers made in their case to move the Super Sonics to Oklahoma City was this: The city’s lawsuit to make Bennett keep the team in Seattle was a smaller ploy in a bigger strategy to force the Sonics to sell the team back to a local ownership group led by real estate broker and civic busybody Matt Griffin and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
According to this theory, schemers in Griffin and Ballmer’s corner, including former Sonic and Sonics CEO Wally Walker and former Senator Slade Gorton, believed that—faced with the prospect of playing in money-losing KeyArena for two more seasons—Bennett would sell.
The problem, as Bennett’s lawyers pointed out repeatedly (with stacks of evidence like a Power Point presentation called “The Poisoned Well” that Gorton presented at Walker’s house on October 7, 2007) was this: Walker was the city’s Sonics consultant and Gorton was the city’s lead counsel dealing with the Sonics’s lease case. The city was the Sonics’s landlord. Undermining your own tenant is a no-no, and could sully the city’s case.
In closing arguments last week, Bennett’s lead attorney, Brad Keller, implicated the city in the plot by focusing on Ceis:
One thing that hasn’t been exercised that I would like to point out is what happened two days after that October 7th meeting. You will find it in Exhibit 601. It is not on my chart here, but it is Mr. Walker’s calendar. Two days later, Mr. Walker’s calendar reflects a meeting at K&L Gates and Ellis attended by himself, attorneys from the firm and Mr. Ceis. It says it right here in his calendar. So one thing you will have to decide is what is the likelihood that two days later after the finalization of the whole poison well power point presentation, after having spent two days before going through it with Mr. Ballmer, whether they weren’t doing the exact same thing two days later with the City’s Deputy Mayor sitting there in the office of K&L Gates with Mr. Gorton…
You have Mr. Ceis two days after the October 7 meeting with Walker, with Mr. Gorton and the other people from K&L Gates, right after the poisoned well is finalized.
Later that afternoon, I (and I think the second question is from Art Thiel from the PI) zoomed in on this Ceis tidbit during the city’s press conference:
Q: It seemed to me like [Sonics lawyer Brad] Keller dropped a new bit of evidence in his closing, which found Deputy Mayor Ceis at a meeting at K&L Gates, two days after the “Poisoned Well’” meeting. So what were you there for? What strategy were you talking about there?
Ceis: That is not a new piece of evidence. That was in my deposition that is part of the court record, and it was clear that on October 9 we were meeting to discuss the preparation of the presentation to the NBA of a renovated KeyArena plan. That’s the whole purpose of that discussion that day.
Q: Nothing about this poisoned well plan? No discussion of this idea that, “We drag ‘em in to court and make it painful enough, we can make ‘em sell.’?”
Ceis: Again, in my deposition, which is part of the record for the court, I had no knowledge at any time up until my deposition of the existence of that Power Point.
Read Ceis’s deposition yourself. Ceis says he didn’t know about the Griffin group until November 2007. But when asked whether or not he knew about a potential new buyer in the fall of ‘07, Ceis says: “There were theoretical discussions about what-ifs.”
He never gets pinned down. I guess we’ll see tomorrow what the judge thinks about Ceis’s “theoretical discussions.”
During his closing argument, Keller asked her to think about just that:
The right side of his brain is working for the Griffin group’s lawyers, the left side is working for the city’s lawyers. We are supposed to think the left side of the brain isn’t talking to the right, and vice versa.
You are being asked to accept that the city’s attorney wasn’t telling his client what he was cooking up when the two had the exact same objective, to keep the team here, and forcing the sale would have accomplished that objective for both. That is contrary to logic. That is contrary to common sense.