Conflicts of interest when it comes to the Kings arena

SN&R's editorial office can't be bought. There is no revolving door. Can you say the same for City Hall?

A local radio personality texted me on Friday night: “Are you aware that documents show a $2,100 payment to SN&R? Can you shed light?”

Having zero clue what this person was talking about, I took to Twitter. Turns out, Sacramento Taxpayers Opposed to Pork—the group aiming to put the city's Kings-arena subsidy to a public vote—bought a couple grand worth of ads in SN&R this fall, and this had just appeared on the group's campaign-finance reports.

I explained to the radio personality that there is a separation between editorial and sales, the ol' journalistic-integrity thing. (It's also worth pointing out that the Sacramento Kings have bought ads with this paper over the years.)

But this didn't stop the pro-arena trolls on Twitter, who spent well-past midnight blasting me as a “fraud” and “phoney” who's guilty of conflicts of interest.

All right, let's talk about conflicts of interest.

Kunal Merchant, former mayoral chief of staff and head of Mayor Kevin Johnson's Think Big Sacramento nonprofit, is considered by many the behind-the-scenes architect who saved the Kings and drove home the arena deal. When all that work was done, however, he left K.J.'s circle to go work for the Kings, where he still is employed today.

Is that a conflict?

Also last spring, Kings attorney Jeffrey Dorso, who advises the mayor, crafted a document outlining the economic benefits of the arena. He emailed this to the assistant city manager, and the document appeared nearly verbatim in the arena term sheet passed by city council. The city never conducted its own cost-benefit analysis of the project.

Is that a conflict?

SN&R's editorial office can't be bought. There is no revolving door. Can you say the same thing for City Hall? Will someone shed light on that?