Behind the Scenes of Anaheim City Council Are Well-Connected Players

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Along with the new Anaheim City Council comes a new batch of policy aides – the stage hands who help make the political theater on the council dais possible.

But unlike years past, when aides largely had secretarial and administrative duties, this year’s group is full of people who are connected political players in their own right.

Mayor Tom Tait’s senior policy advisor Mishal Montgomery is the only aide with a full-time position, and will take home $125,000 in salary and benefits this year. Montgomery, a former deputy for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, worked for former Mayor Curt Pringle before becoming Tait’s right-hand woman.

Other council members are given a $71,450 budget to spend on staff.

Councilwoman Lucille Kring’s policy aide, two-time council candidate Steve Chavez Lodge, is perhaps the most controversial pick, having run against Councilwoman Denise Barnes in District 1 this past November.

“After thoughtful consideration, I’m enlisting Steve Chavez Lodge as my council aide,” Kring said in a written statement. “With long family ties to our city and more than a decade as an Anaheim resident, Steve brings knowledge on key issues such as homelessness, public safety and economic development.”

He also brings some baggage.

During his first run for city council in 2012, Lodge was sued by a local activist who accused him of using his father’s Latino last name on the ballot for political gain. The judge sided with Lodge.

And he’s been accused of carpet bagging, given that he owns property in the city of Murrieta, where he was a public safety commissioner in 2009. In 2012, he was registered to vote in Anaheim Hills and later registered to vote in the Azul Apartment Homes in District 1.

Lodge, a former Santa Ana police officer, also lost an excessive force lawsuit in which he was accused of beating a man who was caught jaywalking.

Currently, he works with Hill International, a construction consulting firm that was a consultant on the Anaheim Streetcar project and is currently an on-call contractor for the expansion of the Anaheim Convention Center.

According to city spokesman Mike Lyster, Lodge won’t be able to participate in any council discussions or advise Kring about any matters involving Hill International. The same rule applies for all council members when their aides have conflicts.

Councilwoman Kris Murray contracts with two consultants: Arianna Barrios, a Rancho Santiago Community College District trustee and well-connected consultant, and her employee, Justin Glover.

Clients of Barrios’ marketing firm, Communications LAB, include Poseidon Water, OCTAX, and the Orange County Transportation Authority, according to an economic disclosure form filed with the county.

Glover is a former aide to County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, and his wife works for the Walt Disney Company.

Barnes has hired former lobbyist Matthew Holder of the Lewis Consulting Group. John Lewis, a partner in the firm, is a consultant to both Barnes and Tait. According to a the company’s website, their clients have included US Congressman Ed Royce, former county Supervisors Chris Norby and Bill Campbell, and the Irvine Company.

Holder has individually represented the Municipal Water District of Orange County, Priority One Ambulance, Blue Shield of California and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, according to disclosure forms.

One of Councilman Steve Faessel’s aides will be Crystal Norman, an employee of FSB Core Strategies, the consulting firm owned by Jeff Flint, who has represented the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce and was once the campaign manager and a close aide to former mayor Curt Pringle.

Nam Bartash, the banking officer for an Anaheim public charter school, will serve as Faessel’s other aide.

Councilmember Jose F. Moreno will also employ two aides: Jacqueline Rodarte, an appointed member of the board for the North Orange County Community College District and teaching student at Cal State Fullerton; and Salvador Figueroa, a campaign volunteer.

Councilman James Vanderbilt has a single policy aide, Helen Myers. Myers sits on the county’s Historical Commission and works as an office assistant for the construction and property management firm Bushala Brothers. Her husband also works as a seasonal character at Disneyland, according to her economic disclosure forms.

Click on the names to view disclosure forms for each council aide: Mishal Montgomery; Arianna Barrios; Justin Glover; Matthew Holder; Crystal Norman; Nam Bartash; Jacqueline Rodarte; Salvador Figueroa; Helen Myers.

A disclosure for Lodge is not available yet.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Matthew Holder is a lobbyist with Lewis Consulting Group, LLC. Holder left the firm in early 2016, but the firm’s website still lists him as a partner. 

Also, a previous version this article mistakenly referred to Communications LAB as a lobbying firm. The firm works with government clients, but is not a lobbying firm. Finally it incorrectly stated that the OCTAX PAC is a client of Communications LAB. The firm’s contract is with OC TAX, the conservative advocacy group, not its political action committee.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

  • David Zenger

    “The firm’s contract is with OC TAX, the conservative advocacy group, not its political action committee.”

    That’s hilarious! What’s the difference?

  • Sisu54

    Lodge gets paid by Hill on a commission basis when he brings in Anaheim work. Now he is getting paid to advise a city council member. Time for the grand jury to look into this odd deal that doesn’t pass the smell test. Same thing for Kris Murray, her consultants also work for the OCTA, time for the grand jury to look into her private deals, she works for another engineering company that gets quid pro quo for putting her company on jobs at OCTA via Hill as a sub, then she votes for Hill to get more money from Anaheim. Tait owns an engineering company and subs to both Lodge’s and Murray’s companies.

  • OCservant_Leader

    Add County of Orange to Arianna Barrios’s client list- didn’t she do Statute Party Planning for Spitzer as well?

    What a small tangled web they weave with our tax dollars.

  • RyanCantor

    “He also brings some baggage.”

    There’s an understatement.

    Well, at least Lucille Kring is making up for her major fopaux, commenting on the death of a constituent: “At least it saved us the cost of a trial, and that’s always a good thing.”

    Lodge has cost taxpayers for many trials. That’s not such a good thing.

    Way to go Lucille. Helluva job.

    • @Dan Chmielewski

      Faux pas. The death of the constituent was the result of him shooting at police officers after holding a gun to the head of a ten year old kid while threatening the boy’s family with death if they alerted police to his whereabouts. The constituent, Robert Moreno Jr., shot a police dog and fired on officers thinking a plastic garbage can would shield him from bullets. No evidence of summary execution by Anaheim police. Nice try at French Ryan. ” Je n’ais c’est pas parler Francais tres bien.” That will get you through Paris or parts of Quebec.

      Excellent story!

      • Rivett

        How many officers did Hossein Farahani shoot at when Lodge beat him with a baton?

      • Cynthia Ward

        Hey Dan, what are you doing hanging around here? Aren’t you late for the season opener of the Los Angels Angels of Tustin? You better hurry, all the good seats will be taken if you don’t get outta here.

    • Cynthia Ward

      oooh….and let’s not forget, Jeff Flint was the lobbyist for the hotel subsidies to the two Chinese owned hotels last July! Gotta make sure he gets credit for THAT benefit to the taxpayers of Anaheim!