Jeff Love and Jeff Johnson, investigators with about three decades of law enforcement experience under their belt, are heading up one of the most complex city corruption probes in California history.

In Anaheim. 

Pulling Back Anaheim’s Curtain

A behind the scenes look at the happiest place on Earth amid one of the largest corruption scandals to rock Orange County.

Yet whether they finish their probe is up to the city’s newly-elected council, which seems reluctant to see how far the rabbit hole goes at city hall when it comes to undue resort district influence. 

Anaheim’s previous City Council last year tasked investigators with rooting out any potential corruption at City Hall following an explosive FBI corruption probe coming to light that called out the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce and the Disneyland resort district as having undue influence at city hall.

[Read: FBI Reveals What Many Anaheim Residents Felt For Years, City Hall is Run By The Chamber of Commerce]

“We have done investigations like this, but what we haven’t seen is the depth and breadth of all the tentacles involved in this sort of investigation. There are just numerous entities, nonprofits, organizations, different developers, different lobbyists, different players,” Love said in a phone interview last week.

“It’s quite extensive.”

Earlier this month, Love publicly told councilmembers that they have found “certain issues … that could concern criminal violations of the law.”

He also said in an interview that they’re talking to all sorts of people in their investigation including: former council members, former city staff and political consultants but didn’t specify who exactly.

That kind of extensive look under the hood is making a host of powerful people and interests uncomfortable, most notably Anaheim’s new city council.  

Anaheim’s outgoing city council last year ordered the probe. But a new city council elected in the wake of the corruption scandal are now wondering publicly whether they really want to air the city’s dirty laundry in public.  

Love and Johnson won’t speak publicly about any specifics of what they have uncovered so far in their investigation and have not made any final conclusions.

The investigators were brought on months after sworn affidavits surfaced from FBI agents who allege a shadowy group of Disneyland Area resort interests really pulled the strings at city hall and accused the former mayor of trying to solicit $1 million in campaign donations for ramming through the now dead Angel Stadium land sale.

Federal agents, their sworn affidavits, touch on the very interests that routinely fund city council campaigns.

Love said the scope of their investigation is much broader than the FBI’s probe, though he added that no one truly knows the extent of the federal investigation.

“The FBI is investigating violations of – generally – federal law. Now they can also look at state law, but we’re looking at conduct that might not be a violation of law, just might be considered unethical or corrupt behavior might not be a chargeable offense, or we might find things that are of a criminal nature,” he said.

New city council members recently cited cost concerns about the city commissioned investigation but have voted to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on things like police dogs and palm tree lighting without discussion since they were inaugurated on Dec. 6.

Love said last week they’ve spent close to the original $750,000 budgeted amount and that the additional money would be used on their investigators, reviewing documents and going through electronic devices.

Jeff Love (left) and Jeffery Johnson sit for a portrait in the Judicate West Building on Feb. 17, 2023 in Santa Ana. Credit: NATALIE CARTWRIGHT, Voice of OC

Both Love and Johnson each have about three decades of experience in law enforcement before they decided to team up in 2018 to start the JL Group – the investigative firm hired by Anaheim officials last year.

They are backed by a team of paralegals, a public affairs analyst and other investigators including former law enforcement officers Dan Jenks and Jeff Brouwer in their current investigation into Anaheim City Hall.

The two Jeffs met while working for Norm Traub & Associates conducting similar administrative investigations. The two have known each other for 10 years.

“Jeff and I just said let’s do it on our own and we have not regretted that decision,” Johnson said.

Jeff Love

Love, 66, grew up in Garden Grove but now lives in Laguna Niguel. 

He went on to work for the Irvine police department for almost 30 years moving up to the rank of lieutenant before retiring in 2006. He also worked as a cadet for the Garden Grove police department and a reserve officer for La Habra Police department.

“I worked on a few homicide cases. One of which was the Golden State killer case in the death of Manuela Witthuhn. My involvement was fairly minimal on it though. I was one of the officers assigned to the scene,” he said.

Anaheim Investigator Jeff Love stands for a portrait in the Judicate West building on Feb. 17, 2023. Credit: NATALIE CARTWRIGHT, Voice of OC

Along with homicide cases, Love has worked narcotics and vice cases even going undercover. He also said he was part of an organized crime task force with the FBI working a case in Orange County investigating a drug trafficking and money laundering operation.

He is also a licensed attorney with over 25 years of experience.

Since his retirement from law enforcement, he has been conducting administrative investigations into public entities.

“I’ve done investigations for a number of cities, involving misconduct by city council members of all sorts of facets. We’ve got quite a bit of experience doing these sorts of things.,” Love said. 

“I would say probably at least a dozen different cities where we’ve investigated the actions of city council members.”

Love said he’s also done corruption investigations in OC.

But he wouldn’t specify which cities in Orange County or how many.

Love also said they’ve done hundreds of administrative investigations for cities, special districts, colleges and schools.

He said these investigations have taught him an important lesson.

“In life you always have to play it straight,” he said.

“I tell all our clients the same thing. I promise you an objective fair investigation. I do not promise you the results you will like.”

Jeff Johnson

Johnson, 63, a Tustin resident, grew up in Long Beach.

“I did my undergraduate education in music. I got a scholarship to Chapman,” he said. “I was a vocalist … I ended up deciding I didn’t really want to do it my senior year as a music major.”

Johnson decided to go to law school but said he lost his student loans due to cutbacks in the program and so he decided to become a police officer. From there he was able to get a police officer scholarship to finish law school – attending both Southwestern University and Taft law schools.

He continued being a police officer serving in the Long Beach Police Department for almost 30 years, retiring as a commander in 2011.

During his law enforcement tenure, Johnson worked and ran the internal affairs department for three years and as a detective worked robbery, major fraud, forgery and burglary. He also trained police officers on use of force for over 20 years.

Anaheim Investigator Jeff Johnson stands for a portrait in his Santa Ana office in the Judicate West building on Feb. 17, 2023. Credit: NATALIE CARTWRIGHT, Voice of OC

In 1985, as a patrol officer Johnson received the Silver Star for Bravery from the American Police Hall of Fame for taking down a man who had taken a woman hostage at gunpoint.

“That was the first time I ever fired my weapon on duty and it was scary but it happened so fast,” he said.

As a relatively new detective, Johnson won the Detective of the Year award from the Long Beach Police Department in the late 1980s, for working a Vice case investigating tow operations stealing cars.

In 1996, he graduated from the FBI National Academy – a training for senior police officers across the country.

Johnson’s experiences as an investigator has taught him to keep an open mind.

“Your reputation is based on your neutrality, on your independence. The vast thing that will kill this business is you always fighting for the cities or the municipal clients and always against the employees. If you’re not consistently objective, that will kill you,” he said.

A majority of the previous city council in August picked the JL Group out of four groups – mainly law firms – that bid to lead the investigation at city hall with city staff estimating the cost between $1.5 – $2.5 million.

Investigators said they’d do it for no more than $750,000, but earlier this month they called on elected officials to double the budget to $1.5 million.

But most of the council members who hired the JL Group – including Trevor O’Neil who publicly identified himself as one of the elected officials FBI agents wrote about – are gone.

They have been replaced by a mixed bag of politicians – some who promised to bring reform to the city and some whose campaigns were heavily funded by the same interests touched by the FBI probe. 

And all of whom directed the city hired investigators to narrow the scope of their investigation before they’d consider putting in more money.

[Read: Is Anaheim Shortchanging its Commissioned Corruption Probe?]

At their Feb. 7 meeting, retired OC Superior Court Judge Clay Smith – overseeing the investigation – said a complete report from investigators can serve as a road map of sorts for city council members for reforms at City Hall.

For Johnson, the investigation into Anaheim hits close to home.

“This is our county. This is our home,” he said. 

“I’ve had relatives that work at Disney and I’ve gone to Angel games. This is our community as well. Anaheim is bigger than just Anaheim. It includes Orange County. And even more than that we love this place, we want to make it better not destroy it. And to do so we have to be very, very careful and very, very detailed in our investigation.”

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.


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