Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said he was shocked to learn that the city of Seattle's legal team is interested in questioning him during the upcoming trial between the city and the SuperSonics.
Cornett on Tuesday was targeted by the city of Seattle's attorneys as one of up to 11 depositions allowed by U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman, who this week scheduled the six-day trial to begin June 16.
"I was surprised because I thought the issue had to do with the existing lease between the team and the city," Cornett said. "I obviously wasn't a part of any lease that was signed 12 years ago and don't know what I would add to the conversation. But I will cooperate with whatever they want."
Cornett said he hasn't been contacted by anyone from Seattle regarding his appearance at the trial and admitted he is unsure whether to clear his schedule during that portion of June. Cornett said he became familiar with his potential involvement through Seattle media reports.
Cornett appeared on the deposition list despite concerted efforts not to directly pursue the Sonics until the Oklahoma-based ownership group formally applied with the NBA to relocate to Oklahoma City on Nov. 2. Before the ownership group filed its relocation application, Cornett rarely mentioned the Sonics by name in interviews.
"We have always focused on us," Cornett said, "knowing that if we focus on us I feel like we're going to get an NBA team. "We've been very careful to not get involved with anything that's going on in Seattle.
"I have a very good relationship with the Seattle Mayor (Greg Nickels), and think the world of that city. I've vacationed there several times. I think it's a beautiful place. I've just been proactively pushing my own city's pursuit of a team."
On Dec. 20, Cornett unveiled a plan to fund $120 million of improvements to the Ford Center through a one-cent sales tax extension in hopes of luring an NBA team. Oklahoma City voters will decide through a March 4 election whether to support the proposal.
One possible reason Seattle attorneys have targeted Cornett could be the alleged positive economic impact he and Sonics chairman Clay Bennett have said an NBA franchise could have on Oklahoma City. Attorneys for the Sonics, meanwhile, have used the opposite argument in their attempt to flee Seattle, saying the Sonics provide little to no economic impact and wouldn't be missed in Washington.
Seattle city officials are attempting to prevent the Sonics from relocating to Oklahoma City before the expiration of the team's arena contract in September 2010. Sonics owners seek a ruling from Pechman that would allow them to escape the arena contract's final two years by paying off the remainder of the lease.