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Sunday, December 30, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The Sonics | Latest twist in fight over team: a secret trip

On the surface, it appeared Seattle leaders and the NBA hadn't even been trying to make peace with regard to the Sonics' lease at KeyArena.

With the city suing team owner Clay Bennett to stop him from breaking the lease and moving to Oklahoma, the past several months have been marked by a public war of rhetoric.

But now it turns out Seattle officials have made at least one effort to smooth relations: In mid-October, they made a secret trip to meet with NBA executives.

Seattle Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis and former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton visited New York City on Oct. 14.

Ceis will not confirm he made the trip. But in response to a public-disclosure request for documents related to such a trip, his office released a credit-card bill showing $342 for a one-night stay at a Hilton hotel.

Seattle City Attorney Tom Carr will confirm that Gorton, as an attorney hired to work on the KeyArena lawsuit, met with NBA officials on behalf of the city.

"It was an effort to open communications with the NBA," Carr said. "I think that was successful."

But there's little evidence the trip produced any breakthroughs. NBA Commissioner David Stern has continued to criticize Seattle. In November he warned that if the Sonics leave, the city won't ever get another NBA franchise.

— Jim Brunner

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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