National Football Cartel

How the Arizona Cardinals and their NFL brethren exert monopoly power to extract billions of dollars from American taxpayers

Nevertheless, Ferris says TSA is "winding down" Smith & Harroff's duties, with communications responsibilities being picked up by a staff employee.

At the same time the TSA staff is issuing no-bid contracts to companies that appear to have conflicts of interest, the staff is being paid hefty salaries that come with plum perks.

Ferris is making $150,000 a year with a 5 percent annual escalator plus a discretionary bonus to be determined by the TSA board of directors. Ferris also receives a $600-a-month auto allowance.

Joe Forkan

Kenny Harris, TSA vice president for facilities, is paid $139,000 with a 3 percent annual escalator plus a guaranteed $8,000-a-year bonus. Harris also receives $500 per month for a vehicle.

Kelly Leid, TSA vice president of operations, is earning $100,000 plus the same additional provisions as Harris.

Charles Foley, TSA chief financial officer, is paid $98,000 with a 3 percent annual escalator and discretionary bonus.

All the agreements include four weeks' paid vacation. None of the agreements can be terminated before 2005 without substantial severance packages. Ferris, for example, is eligible to receive one-half of the value of his contract, including salary, benefits and car allowance, if he is terminated prior to December 31, 2005.

The salaries and perks are far higher than those received by county officials overseeing construction of Bank One Ballpark. The Maricopa County Stadium District entered only into short-term contracts with the highest paid employee receiving $98,000 a year, with no vehicle allowance. The employee could be fired at any time with no severance.

Ferris says TSA's employee contracts are comparable to stadium projects elsewhere in the country. He says he wanted to provide employees strong incentive to remain on the project throughout the construction process.

"I wanted to make sure they are not going to leave me for a better offer and leave me in a lurch in the middle of the project," he says.

The one-sided financial aspects of the Cardinals stadium deal, last year's site selection problems that led to the FAA's rejection of the Tempe location, and ongoing controversy surrounding TSA operations is eroding public support.

Several legislators, led by Senator Scott Bundgaard, are preparing legislation that could seriously affect TSA's ability to function.

Meanwhile, the John F. Long lawsuit hovers in the background, freezing TSA's ability to sell bonds to finance the stadium.

Longtime Phoenix economic development experts, like former Downtown Phoenix Partnership director Margaret Mullen, are growing increasingly disgusted.

"The whole initiative process through the design and construction of the stadium for the Cardinals is the case study that economic development and urban design specialists will look at for decades to come as how not to do things," Mullen says.

As former head of Downtown Phoenix Partnership, Mullen was instrumental in mustering civic support for the construction of America West Arena and Bank One Ballpark. Those projects, she claims, have been major benefits to downtown.

The Cardinals stadium, however, is a different story, particularly if it is located downtown.

"Do the numbers," she says. The football stadium "is something that happens 10 or so times a year. Do you really want to take 20 or 25 acres in downtown and deactivate it for 10 times a year?"

Mesa Mayor Keno Hawker is also skeptical of the benefits of the stadium, even though his city was one of the eight sites under consideration by TSA.

"It is very difficult for a host city with a straight face to face the residents and say, 'This is a great deal for our community,'" Hawker says.

While cities scramble to try to win the project, the Arizona Cardinals remain silent.

The Bidwill family is letting the power of the NFL cartel do its work, confident that, sooner or later, the team will get a publicly subsidized stadium.

There is an alternative to the NFL's monopoly market place.

Just look to the NFL's playing field -- where competition reigns supreme.

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