There is a growing controversy over who pays for police escorts of charter buses for the San Francisco 49ers.

A private citizen associated with the group Santa Clara Plays Fair filed a public information request about costs of escorting the player buses to pre-season games. The Santa Clara police chief admits he authorized four such police escorts from the team headquarters in Santa Clara; once during the 2009 pre-season and three times during the 2010 pre-season.

Deborah Bress says she filed the public information request and the answers she got back just lead to more questions.

"We were promised that no money from the general fund was going to go to cover the costs of building a 49er stadium in Santa Clara and they lied to us; they have been using taxpayer money, they lied," Bress said.

It turns out the city has been providing the team with free police escorts to the San Jose airport since 2007. On Aug. 28 five police officers were assigned to escort the team's six chartered buses from Santa Clara to Oakland for a pre-season game. Police Chief Steven Lodge said the department keeps track of its hours and once the stadium authority is formed, the city would get the money back from the 49ers eventually, totaling approximately $10,000.

"The theory was that these hours would be added up and when the stadium authority was established, the city would be reimbursed," Lodge said.

The 49ers issued a statement saying police escorts are standard practice in the National Football League and if the police department wants to bill after each escort, the team would be happy to pay sooner.

However, some city council members were not aware of this running tab. Council member Will Kennedy says it would be better if the team paid as it went and paid in full.

"There's certain overhead costs," Kennedy said. "If nothing else, the cost of gas or the cost of scheduling that and arranging for that so the city is completely made whole."

Bress has another round of questions about trips Santa Clara officers made to other stadiums and whether officers have been receiving free 49er tickets.

"We have the fox in charge of the henhouse," Bress said. "We have people that are supposed to be watching out for our money, spending our money frivolously."

The police chief says there have been no free tickets, just hard work to make sure the city is ready for a 2014 opening season in Santa Clara.

In June, Santa Clara voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure which clears the way to build a $937 million stadium for the 49ers.

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santa clara, san francisco 49ers, nfl, karina rusk
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