The Los Angeles Angels have announced they won’t be contesting Anaheim’s decision to scrap the Angel Stadium land sale with the City of Anaheim after council members unanimously voted to cancel the deal following revelations the negotiations were caught up in an FBI corruption probe.
“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,” reads a statement put on the city’s website from SRB Management, headed up by team owner Arte Moreno.
[Read: Anaheim City Council Cans Angel Stadium Deal After FBI Corruption Probe Into City Hall]
It’s a stark turnaround from a letter sent last week that put city officials on notice that the SRB Management, which is the development group led by Angels’ owner Arte Moreno, still expected the deal to go through despite the unveiling of an FBI corruption probe.
“We are disappointed by Anaheim City Council’s action last night regarding the Stadium Land Sale. Since the beginning we negotiated in good faith which resulted in a fair deal. We are currently exploring all of our options,” SRB Management spokeswoman Marie Garvey said in a Wednesday statement.
Acting Mayor Trevor O’Neil answered the move publicly on behalf of the city issuing a statement through the city spokesperson that the move “is the right thing to do,” adding that the city’s still open to negotiations down the road.
“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,” O’Neil said in a Friday statement.
During Tuesday’s council meeting, Councilman Steve Faessel said a new city council should handle the next round of negotiations.
“If we do a do-over, make it in 2025 when all of us, or most of us will be gone,” Faessel said. “If we want to continue to try to sell this thing, maybe it’s better done in the distant future. I’m not sure that I could, based upon what’s happened and what we’ve discovered, I’m not sure I can support any sale.”
News of the FBI corruption probe into former Mayor Harry Sidhu’s dealings at city hall first broke May 16.
The FBI corruption allegations are attached to court filings from California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s request to put a two-month hold on a stipulated judgment against Anaheim for violating the Surplus Land Act, which would’ve been one of the last hurdles the deal needed to clear.
In less than two weeks, the sale was put on hold by an OC Superior Court Judge, former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Ament was charged with mortgage fraud, top Democratic party member Melehat Rafei resigned from her posts after she said she was involved with the probe, Sidhu resigned and the Angel Stadium land sale was canceled by both the city and the Angels.
The court filings detail the influence the Chamber of Commerce and lobbyists had at city hall during Sidhu’s tenure.
[Read: FBI Reveals What Many Anaheim Residents Felt For Years, City Hall is Run By The Chamber of Commerce]
And there’s also talks of campaign finance reform for the city council, along with a reversal of many of the Sidhu-initiated procedural rules that restricted policy ideas from the council minority.
[Read: FBI Probe Spurs Questioning of Money in Anaheim Politics, Campaign Finance Reform]
There’s even increasing questions about the current lease, which keeps the team at the stadium until at least 2029.
In January 2019, Sidhu spearheaded the stadium lease reinstatement – the same lease the Angels tore up just a few months before.
At the time it was largely billed as a one-year temporary lease extension to buy time for negotiations.
[Read: Anaheim Mayor and City Staff Offer Contradicting Angels Stadium Statements]
During Tuesday’s meeting, Councilman Jose Moreno said the lease reinstatement weakened the city’s position in negotiations because the stadium “was free and clear” before Sidhu brought the lease back.
“So city attorney if we find that that nefarious activity was occurring at this time, would that nullify that vote?” Moreno asked City Attorney Rob Fabela.
“Yes there’s definitely that potential. It’s a little more complicated,” Fabela responded, adding if it stems from “a product of self dealing, that could be voidable.”
In the affidavit attached to the state Attorney General’s court filings, FBI agent Brian Adkins alleges Sidhu tried to ram the stadium deal through for $1 million in campaign expenditures from the Angels for mailers and other political advertising through independent expenditures.
Adkins also said Sidhu leaked critical information to the Angels during stadium negotiations.
“I also believe, based on recorded conversations conducted between CW2 and SIDHU, and as illustrated below, that another motivating factor was SIDHU’s intention to solicit monetary compensation from an individual, in the form of campaign contributions, in exchange for pushing the stadium deal through on more favorable terms for the Angels,” Adkins said in his affidavit.
Sidhu’s attorney, Paul Meyer disputes those claims.
In a Monday statement, Meyer said a “fair and thorough investigation” will show Sidhu didn’t leak information to the Angels in an effort to get a campaign contribution – as is alleged in an FBI affidavit.
“The government affidavit confirms that Harry never asked for a political campaign contribution that was linked in any way to the negotiation process,” he wrote.
Spencer Custodio is the civic editor. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio.
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