10 News by Noah Pransky
November 18, 2018
TAMPA, Fla. – For years, county commissioner Ken Hagan has been negotiating a new Rays stadium behind closed doors, going so far to preserve secrecy that he refused to turn over public records even when the law required it.
However, the secret details of where Hagan and the Rays were planning to put a new stadium were not secret to every member of the public – one key developer was given access to the information that should have been available to all. Hagan had a county staffer draw up maps of the exact location in Ybor City, where the team is now campaigning to put the stadium, as far back as 2016.
The developer used that information to buy land at a discounted rate, put himself in position to profit off the new stadium announcement, then became a significant contributor to Commissioner Hagan’s re-election campaign. At no time were Hagan’s fellow commissioners – or members of the public who requested the public documents – provided the maps.
Hagan also used outside law firms, hired by the county at an expense of a half million dollars over the past four years, to act as intermediary negotiators on a stadium deal. Text messages between Hagan and one attorney reveal how involved Hagan was in conversations and negotiations over land acquisitions – conversations Hagan denied having altogether.
10Investigates spent two years digging through property records, commission communications, and campaign records to unravel the complicated connections between Hagan and private developers. The commissioner repeatedly declined interview requests with one 10Investigates reporter, but agreed to a single 10News interview with another reporter in August. He refused to answer follow-up questions.
Hagan won his re-election by a slim margin, 52 percent to 48 percent, over a Democratic opponent he outraised by a 16-to-1 margin and outspent nearly 11-to-1. He continues to lead the negotiations between the county, the Rays, and developers who stand to profit from the deal. Details of the discussions, and the public dollars that may be involved, remain secret to Hagan’s fellow commissioners and constituents alike.