Anaheim residents could be one step closer to knowing exactly how a majority of their city council members decided to sell Angel Stadium and the roughly 150 acres it sits on for $150 million.
On Monday, Orange County Superior Court Judge David Hoffer decided the city hasn’t produced enough records in a lawsuit filed by the People’s Homeless Task Force and has ordered the city to conduct another records search.
Attorneys representing the city argue the Anaheim City Clerk’s office, along with other departments, conducted a thorough search for communication records surrounding the details of the stadium deal.
Click here to read Anaheim’s court filing.
But Kelly Aviles, attorney for the task force, argued the search was minimal.
Click here to read the task force’s filing.
Hoffer, in his ruling, said the city’s filings fail to demonstrate exactly how the records search was conducted.
“This issue is of special concern when it comes to electronic searches. For such searches, the results will only be as good as the search terms utilized, and there is no information at all in the declarations about what search terms the persons performing the search utilized,” reads Hoffer’s minute order.
Click here to read the minute order.
He also ordered the attorneys to sit down and define the search terms in an effort to produce more records surrounding the stadium sale.
The People’s Homeless Task Force, an Anaheim residents’ advocacy group, sued the city in February for moving to sell the stadium land and alleged Mayor Harry Sidhu and his colleagues violated the state’s transparency law, also known as the Ralph M. Brown act, by holding secret meetings about the deal.
The lawsuit is looking to overturn the land sale vote and have Anaheim City Councilmembers redo the entire process in public, which is now proposing to sell the stadium for $150 million.
Sidhu, who got himself appointed to the city’s negotiating team, apparently didn’t produce any texts messages, emails or memos about the stadium sale in the public records request — which saw a massive dump of files like multiple repeats of slideshows, stadium sale agreements and the draft appraisal.
Apparently, Assistant City Clerk Jennifer Hall has never received a text message from Sidhu when she’s put together a records request.
“Do you recall ever receiving a text message in response to a CPRA request from the mayor?” Aviles asked Hall in an Aug. 3 deposition.
Hall responded, “Not that I can recall.”
In the deposition, Aviles also tried to get more information on the city’s negotiating team.
“There were certain people that were heavily involved, for example, the mayor that was heavily involved in the stadium negotiation. Did anyone talk to the mayor to identify who he had been in contact with about the stadium sale?” Aviles asked hall.
“I did not speak with the mayor. I do not know who else may have spoken to him in that regard,” Hall responded.
A majority of city council members, led by Sidhu, voted to begin the stadium land sale in December 2019 — days before the Christmas holiday.
The sale proposal was made public less than a month before the council voted on it.
Council members finalized the sale last September, which saw a huge price drop from the original price tag of $320 million.
Taxpayers took $123 million off the starting price to fund at least 466 affordable housing units.
Another $46 million was taken off so taxpayers could build a seven-acre park on the stadium land.
It all happened without much critical discussion from the council majority.
The city is now facing a lawsuit from the People’s Homeless Task Force for allegedly violating state transparency law.
And Anaheim has been warned it might have violated the state surplus land act in selling the stadium.
The state housing department issued a preliminary conclusion that Anaheim has yet to prove it’s in compliance with the Surplus Land Act.
The law “requires the city to take formal action in a regular public meeting declaring the property surplus or exempt surplus land, as supported by written findings,” reads the letter. “None of the documents that the city has provided to [Housing and Community Development] indicate that the city has declared the property surplus or exempt surplus…”
However, city officials argue the deal is exempt from the law because they were in exclusive negotiations with the Angels — who threatened to move to Long Beach — without actually having a signed, formal agreement.
The council majority actually voted against entering into an executive negotiation agreement with the Angels in early 2019.