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The full appraisal of Angel Stadium is sitting in a binder in the Anaheim city manager’s office and only the City Council is allowed to see it, but it seems that the value of the stadium has already been leaked, according to one city councilman.
“I have received information that suggests to me that people in our city already know what the appraisal prices are, that presumably should not know because they’re not Councilmembers or senior staff members. It is imperative now that we release this appraisal because members of our Council and possibly the mayor have allowed others to learn what the price is for the appraisal,” said Anaheim City Councilman Jose Moreno.
That means the Angels could know the appraised value, he said.
“And if some people know, then certainly Angels baseball knows. And that’s the whole reason they want to keep it private as a negotiation tactic,” Moreno said.
Angels spokeswoman Marie Garvey said Anaheim has not shared the appraisal with the team.
“We have not received the appraisal and have asked the city for it and they declined,” said Garvey in a text message.
She also said the Angels are looking to get a new lease by Dec. 31, the last day the ball club can opt out of its current lease or they have to stay until 2029.
Anaheim officials previously told Voice of OC the city will release the appraisal “at the right time” because the release could jeopardize the upcoming negotiations with the Angels.
Although state law allows cities to withhold public property appraisals during negotiations, the previous City Council voted November 2018 to conduct an appraisal and release it to the public and the Council.
But Voice of OC open government consultant Terry Francke said the November 2018 isn’t binding to the current Council and poses a political question.
“Well then I think the decision to withhold the appraisal, although it does rely on some legal authority, could be viewed as politically suspect. If the previous council had no problem with letting the public know what the appraisal was, then why does the successor council find that to be a problem? What’s changing their minds about it?” Francke said.
“I think the result is that it leaves some reasonable skepticism, if not suspicion, of their current motivations,” Francke said.
He also said he’s never seen someone prosecuted for leaking closed session information.
“I’m not aware of any member of a body subject to the Brown Act who has been prosecuted or sued for leaking information of this kind. The strongest thing I’ve ever heard of, as a discipline for leaking closed session information, would be a resolution of censure — which basically is just an expression by the body that it disapproves strongly of what one of its members has done. But that’s as far as it goes,” Francke said.
City spokesman Mike Lyster previously told Voice of OC the appraisal will be released to the public “at the right time.”
Moreno said a resident asked him about the appraised value within a week being presented the appraisal.
“I was asked directly is this the max appraised value and I was given a number and I was struck by how accurate that number was and basically, to the folks that asked me, I could not deny the number,” he said, adding he couldn’t confirm the number either.
City officials declined to answer questions about who has access to the appraisal or if anyone outside of the Council might have seen it.
Councilwoman Denise Barnes said she hasn’t heard of the apparent appraisal leak.
“Nobody should know except just the City Council and of course (Deputy City Manager) David Belmer, who is the one who presented it to us. So I have not heard anything, but then again, I have been extremely busy with my own things that I am championing for,” Barnes said.
No other Councilmembers responded for comment.
The City Council has already declined to release the appraisal twice after failed requests from Moreno and seconded only by Barnes. Moreno needed two other Council members to join him Tuesday in order to put Angel Stadium appraisal on the Oct. 22 meeting agenda, due to a series of changes to City Council procedures spearheaded by Mayor Harry Sidhu from December to February. Councilmembers were able to schedule agenda items without a second and third before the changes.
Moreno said he’s starting to distrust the process and all Councilmembers besides Barnes have refused to meet with him about the upcoming negotiations.
“To be kept in the dark, to be told I can only review a document in certain quarters with a sense of distrust, even though the Council did vote to make this document public … I’m not feeling good about how this is beginning to truly play out,” Moreno said.
Meanwhile, the city is expecting a proposal from the Angels sometime this month.
During the last round of negotiations in 2014, the city sent an excerpt of the appraisal to the Angels before publicly releasing it and Angels President John Carpino wrote a letter to the city objecting the appraisal be released to the public because it would be “misunderstood by the general public.”
The Honda Center appraisal was released five days before the City Council’s November vote that struck a 20-year lease with the Anaheim Ducks hockey team.
In the Ducks deal, the city sold a portion of the parking lot around center for $10.1 million to the team’s management company so they can develop the land. The city was also able to lower profit-sharing thresholds in the November deal and handed over management of ARTIC — along with its annual $2.5 million deficit — to Henry Samueli’s Anaheim Arena Management, which has run the Honda Center since 2003. Samueli also owns the Anaheim Ducks.
Under the Honda Center deal, the Ducks now only have to generate $6 million annually before the city gets 50 percent of revenues above that threshold. Before, it was 20 percent of revenue after the Honda Center hit the $12 million mark, according to an OC Register November article.
Wally Courtney, a 30-year real estate agent who lives in Anaheim, said while he’d like to see the Angels stay in the city, he’s become skeptical of the upcoming negotiations because there’s less than three months left to sign a new deal.
“Why is the Council sitting back waiting for the Angels. Why aren’t they talking to other potential buyers or users so they can get an idea of what it’s worth?” Courtney said.
He said if the Angels are willing to pay fair rent and reasonable revenue-sharing formula, the negotiations could be done before the end of the year. But, Courtney said, he’s also worried the City Council will panic and approve a bad deal due to the looming Dec. 31 deadline.
“I think they’re going to come in and work some kind of screwball lease that nobody understands,” Courtney said. “That would be my concern is that they’ll try to hammer through something at the end of the year that looks like what’s better now.”