Anaheim City Manager Chris Zapata Might Be Headed Out

Chris Zapata

Anaheim City Manager Chris Zapata could be headed out of City Hall, as City Council members are slated to discuss a temporary city manager and a public employee departure in the same closed-door session next Tuesday. 

“The Council is set to hear personnel matters in closed session on Tuesday. Beyond that, we don’t have anything to share at this time and will look to see what is reported out of the session,” said the city’s Chief Communications Officer Mike Lyster in a Thursday written statement.

Council members at their April 21 meeting will discuss the appointment of a temporary city manager behind closed doors, right after discussion an item titled “public employee resignation/release/dismissal.”

Zapata took his post in 2018, and has since overseen the city’s day-to-day administration and most notably was a member of the city’s negotiating team for the sale of Angel Stadium — a process critics said wasn’t transparent and questioned for the city’s few meetings with Angels negotiators. 

Most recently, Zapata was slated to oversee a $6.5 million contract to Visit Anaheim, the hotel-funded resort advertising agency, as part of Mayor Harry Sidhu’s $15 million economic recovery package. 

Zapata told the Council he didn’t recommend giving the $6.5 million to Visit Anaheim at the March 27 meeting. 

He said the city should start at a lower amount. 

“Let me say this. I do agree on the plan’s three-pronged approach,” Zapata said. “However, I would not recommend the City Council commit the full amount of $6.5 million to Visit Anaheim. I believe we should commit a lesser amount at the onset.” 

Zapata said he wanted the Council to give him the ability to negotiate with Visit Anaheim and draw up a strict performance review so he can track what the money is doing. 

But his concerns were disregarded by the majority. 

The contract has faced criticism for giving money to the resort advertising group while industry is closed indefinitely during the virus pandemic. 

The OC Register editorial board called the contract a case of “misbegotten priorities.”

“The Anaheim City Council has long been chided for handing out subsidies to Resort Area businesses, so its support for a bailout of a resort-related organization during the coronavirus crisis wasn’t surprising,” the editorial board wrote. 

Before Anaheim, Zapata was the city manager of San Leandro, a city in the San Francisco Bay Area, until he left in July 2018 with a $350,000 severance deal. While Zapata was city manager, he was accused of sexual harassment by a local nonprofit head, but a four-month investigation by a city-hired lawyer determined the accusations weren’t credible.

Zapata was making an annual $299,458 salary with Anaheim, according to public employee compensation records.

Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC reporting fellow. Contact him at bpho@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @photherecord.

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. Reach him at  scustodio@voiceofoc.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio