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The original item was published from 9/14/2022 10:33:00 AM to 9/30/2022 11:39:40 AM.

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2022 - City News - Current

Posted on: May 19, 2022

[ARCHIVED] Latest update: Anaheim updates lobbying ordinance; running timeline

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ANAHEIM, Calif. ― The city of Anaheim and all members of Anaheim’s City Council have condemned actions documented in a federal investigation of former Anaheim mayor Harry Sidhu and a former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce executive.

Here is our latest update followed by a running timeline of events and how Anaheim has responded:

LATEST UPDATES

Sept. 13: Anaheim City Council votes to update lobbying ordinance and extend email retention policy from 90 days to two years. The email retention update applies to city council members, city council staff, and city executive staff. Changes to the lobbying ordinance include a misdemeanor penalty for a lobbyist who doesn't register with the city, doesn't file a lobbying report, files a false or inaccurate report or conceals compensation for lobbying activity. A first time offense could result in a $1,000 fine, up to six months in jail and a ban on lobbyist activity in Anaheim for one year. A second offense would extend the ban to three years.


RUNNING TIMELINE 

May 16Anaheim learns of an affidavit in a federal investigation of Sidhu; Anaheim publicly shares affidavit on city website and with major media.

May 16: Anaheim issues a statement of trouble and dismay about what is described and that the actions were outside the city’s knowledge and process on the Angel Stadium of Anaheim site. Mayor Pro Tem Trevor O'Neil is requested at City Hall for consultation with city staff. You can read more here.


May 16-ongoing: Anaheim shares information and comments with TV news, newspapers, online publications and other media.

May 17Mayor Pro Tem O'Neil assumes mayor duties in absence of mayor, in accordance with Anaheim's city charter.

May 17: Anaheim learns of a federal criminal complaint against former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce executive Todd Ament. You can see the complaint here.

May 17: Anaheim City Council holds regularly scheduled meeting with Mayor Sidhu absent; Council Members Avelino Valencia and Jose F. Moreno call for Sidhu resignation, Mayor Pro Tem O’Neil and Council Members Jose Diaz, Gloria Ma’ae and Stephen Faessel express serious concerns.

May 18: Mayor Pro Tem O’Neil and Council Members Faessel and Diaz issue a formal request for the mayor’s resignation to Sidhu’s lawyer. “The deeply troubling issues that have come to our attention involving Mayor Sidhu since May 16, 2022, raise serious concerns and questions about his ability to continue as mayor of Anaheim,” the letter reads. “I and my City Council colleagues now must seek to support the continuity of municipal government, uphold the public trust and continue with the business of the City of Anaheim without the distraction and uncertainty created by the federal investigation involving Mayor Sidhu.” You can read more here.

May 18: In a separate statement Council Member Ma’ae calls for Sidhu’s resignation.

May 19: Anaheim learns through media reports that cannabis consultant Melahat Rafiei was a cooperating witness in the investigation into former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce executive Ament. Rafiei steps down as a commissioner on Anaheim's Culture and Heritage Commission, an appointment made by former Anaheim Council member Jordan Brandman, who stepped down from the Council in 2021. Rafiei reportedly worked with federal investigators as the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce advocated for a proposal for Anaheim to allow cannabis businesses to operate in the city. The City Council rejected any change to the city's prohibiting of cannabis businesses on June 9, 2020. 

May 19-20: Anaheim Mayor Pro Tem O'Neil, Council Member Faessel and City Manager Jim Vanderpool share with media that they attended a Dec. 2, 2020, meeting referenced in the complaint against former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce executive Ament, saying what they recalled attending was a business meeting focused on the economic, city budget and other impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the pending rollout of vaccines and other issues related to Anaheim's economy. "What I attended was a business meeting, like others I have attended with various stakeholders in our city," Mayor Pro Tem O'Neil said. "If this meeting or any other meeting was viewed differently by others, that was not my experience or understanding." You can see documents from the meeting here. Note: cover page appears to contain wrong date, which should read Dec. 2, 2020.

May 20: Anaheim receives a letter on behalf of SRB Management LLC, pending buyer of the stadium site and made up of Angels Baseball owner Arte Moreno and family, saying the stadium site sale was negotiated in good faith with extensive public review and potential benefit for the city of Anaheim and those it serves. The letter asks for the sale to move forward by June 14, 2022. You can read the letter here. Anaheim issues statement: "We have received and are evaluating the letter. The stadium site plan was pursued in good faith and on the merits of the proposal and the benefits it could bring to our city. While what has come to light this week falls outside that process, it nonetheless raises questions, concerns and complications. City Council members have expressed initial reservations about whether this current proposal can go forward. We will look to the May 24 City Council meeting for a full discussion and direction."

May 22: Anaheim learns that cannabis consultant Rafiei resigns as a Democratic National Committee state representative and as secretary for the California Democratic Party; the moves follow her May 19 resignation from Anaheim's Culture and Heritage Commission and the OC Fair Board.

May 23: Anaheim receives notice that Mayor Sidhu is resigning, effective May 24. A vacancy will be addressed by the City Council in consultation with city attorney, city clerk, Anaheim’s charter and state law in coming weeks. You can read more here.

May 24: Anaheim’s City Council unanimously votes to void 2020 agreement to sell Angel Stadium of Anaheim and see development around it. “The stadium proposal was evaluated and approved on its merits,” Mayor Pro Tem O’Neil said. “However knowing that there may have been an element of corruption that brought the final product to us, we cannot move forward in good conscience.” The action directs the city attorney to immediately void the stadium site sale and notify buyer SRB Management. The action also starts a legal process that will involve filing a motion for declaratory judgment in Orange County Superior Court based on concerns of conflict of interest and that the transaction was not at arm’s length.

May 25: Anaheim sends letter to SRB Management notifying of City Council decision to void 2020 agreement to sell Angel Stadium of Anaheim and see development around it. "... (I)n the best interests of the Angels and the residents of Anaheim, the city believes the (purchase and sale agreement) is void as a matter of law and public policy. Given these extraordinary and deeply disturbing circumstances, the city requests that SRB and the Angels join with the city in acknowledging that the PSA is void." You can read the letter here. You can read more on the City Council’s decision here.

May 27: SRB Management notifies city, shares publicly that it accepts the City Council decision to void the 2020 agreement. SRB statement: "Given that the City Council unanimously voted to cancel the stadium land agreement, we believe it is the best interest of our fans, Angels Baseball, and the community to accept the city’s cancellation. Now we will continue our focus on our fans and the baseball season.” Anaheim Mayor Pro Tem O'Neil statement: "We welcome and thank the Angels for their mutual understanding of what is called for in this moment. It is the right thing to do. But a long-term plan for the stadium site and baseball in Anaheim are still opportunities we want to explore. We will continue working to get past this moment with the door open for a fresh start when the time is right."

June 2: Anaheim compiles publicly available filings on campaign contributions made to former mayor Sidhu from 2017 through most recent six-month reporting period through the end of 2021, along with any agreements or contracts contributors may have with the city of Anaheim and whether they were approved by the City Council or administratively. You can see the report here. The compiled data is part of a City Council agenda item for the June 7 meeting. Contributions for the first six months of 2022 are set to be available in July.

June 7:

  • Anaheim City Council discusses mayor vacancy; city attorney offers opinion that mayor pro tem handles duties of mayor in absence of mayor, including resignation; Council continues vacancy discussion to June 21
  • City Council reviews compiled campaign contributions to former mayor Sidhu and contracts or agreements contributors may have with the city; Council directs staff to seek proposals for an independent audit of campaign contributions and city contracts for review of proposals on June 21
  • Council discusses campaign finance and reporting reform proposals, continues item to June 21 with the COVID-19 absence of Council Member Jose Diaz
  • Council authorizes release of $50 million in stadium site escrow account back to SRB Management, pending a written agreement with SRB to formally void stadium sale

June 9: Former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce executive Ament agrees to plead guilty to submitting a false tax return, lying to a mortgage lender and two counts of wire fraud and to cooperate with the federal government's ongoing investigation. You can read the plea agreement here.


June 13: Anaheim and SRB Management formally agree to cancel proposed stadium site sale with SRB agreeing not to pursue a sale in court and Anaheim releasing $50 million in escrow deposits back to SRB. You can read the agreement here.


June 16: SRB Management advises the city of a claim for $5 million in costs incurred related to the voided stadium site sale proposal. You can read SRB's letter here. Anaheim issues statement: "We have received SRB's letter, which was expected. As we agreed to release escrow deposits and SRB agreed not to seek a court order compelling a sale, other legal positions and questions remained for future discussions. We continue to have concerns about whether the agreement any anticipated claim is based on is even valid, given what has recently come to light. Nevertheless, we will process a claim as we would any other and look to any pending discussions with SRB as well as any guidance from our City Council."


June 21:

  • Anaheim City Council votes to request proposals for an independent review of campaign contributions, city contracts as well as any undue influence, serial meetings or issues with staff, with a review focused on former mayor Sidhu and current and past Council members since 2016; Council expected to consider proposals on July 19.
  • City Council votes not to approve nominations of either former mayor Tom Tait or businessman Paul Kott as interim mayor; Council set to continue as six members with a mayor pro tem for the time being. 
  • City Council deadlocks 3-3 with no approval of a campaign finance proposal that would have required recusal from items involving campaign contributors of $250 or more for six months and to require reporting within 72 hours of contributions of $250 or more within 90 days of an election.

June 27: Orange County Grand Jury releases report on stadium process. You can read it here. Anaheim releases statement: "We appreciate the grand jury’s review. With recent events and new information brought to light, those issues now are being thoroughly discussed as part of a new, extensive public process for our city."

July 1: Former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce executive Ament formally enters guilty plea in federal court to filing a false tax return, lying to a mortgage lender and two counts of wire fraud. You can see the press release here. You can read Ament's plea agreement here.


July 12: City Council considers campaign finance reform for third time since June 7 with no action taken; return to campaign finance reform proposal from June 21 rejected; several amendments to July 12 proposal to adopt California’s Levine Act standards rejected; proposal to adopt Levine Act standards dropped amid lack of consensus.


Aug. 4:

  • Anaheim releases proposed response to June 27 Orange County Grand Jury report on stadium process as part of the agenda for the City Council’s Aug. 9 meeting. You can read it here. Anaheim releases statement: "We welcome the report and the chance to respond to it. There are areas of agreement and others where we can clarify or correct the record. We now look forward to any City Council discussion on Tuesday.”
  • Anaheim includes with agenda for the City Council’s Aug. 9 meeting four proposals received in response to the city's request for an independent investigation and audit. You can see the staff report and proposals here.

Aug. 9:

  • Anaheim City Council selects Laguna Niguel-based JL Group LLC for independent investigation and audit after hearing from four firms that submitted proposals. You can see JL Group’s proposal here. The Council also selects retired judge Clay Smith as neutral administrator of the investigation and audit. You can read Smith's biography here.
  • Anaheim City Council puts off and continues to its Aug. 23 meeting a discussion of a proposed response to the Orange County Grand Jury report on stadium sale proposal process. You can read the proposed response here.

Aug. 23: Anaheim City Council votes to submit a response as prepared by staff, without changes, to the Orange County Grand Jury report on stadium sale proposal process. You can read the response here

Sept. 13: Anaheim City Council votes to update lobbying ordinance and extend email retention policy from 90 days to two years. 

  • The email retention update applies to city council members, city council staff, and city executive staff. 
  • Changes to the lobbying ordinance include a misdemeanor penalty for a lobbyist who doesn't register with the city, doesn't file a lobbying report, files a false or inaccurate report or conceals compensation for lobbying activity. A first time offense could result in a $1,000 fine, up to six months in jail and a ban on lobbyist activity in Anaheim for one year. A second offense would extend the ban to three years.

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