Many Anaheim residents want to know the extent of potential corruption at their city hall after revelations of an explosive FBI probe last year that saw the former mayor resign and the Angel Stadium land sale collapse. 

The FBI affidavit – in which agents told a judge that Anaheim is controlled by Disneyland area resort interests through the local chamber of commerce – also kicked off an independent corruption probe ordered by the outgoing city council in Anaheim when the allegations surfaced last May.

“The FBI learned that the City of Anaheim was tightly controlled by a small cadre of individuals, to include [former Mayor Harry] Sidhu, a particular member of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce (“the Chamber”) and others,” reads the affidavit.

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

Following pressure from some residents and local activists, council members in November voted to publicly release the probe’s final report.

[Read: Anaheim Residents Pressure City Council to Publicly Release Corruption Probe]

But just how much of those findings get released to residents this July remains an open question.  

On Tuesday, Anaheim City Council members are slated to consider exactly what will get released in the city’s independent corruption probe, with officials citing legal liability concerns over releasing aspects of the final investigation report. 

Click here to watch the 4 p.m. meeting.

In public meetings and interviews with Voice of OC, investigators say they’ve potentially found evidence of criminal wrongdoing by people working in or close to City Hall. 

[Read: Meet the Investigators Trying to Shine a Light on Corruption at Anaheim City Hall]

Following publication of a look at the ordered scope of the city probe along with profiles of the investigators by Voice of OC, city council members – at the public urging of City Councilwoman Natalie Rubalcava – voted to put a gag order on investigators barring them from speaking to the press.

Tuesday’s expected discussion on the probe comes nearly a year after federal agents filed damning affidavits in court that allege former Mayor Harry Sidhu tried ramming the Angel Stadium deal through in an effort to get $1 million in campaign support from ball club officials. 

Shortly after the filings surfaced, Sidhu resigned and city council members voted to kill the stadium sale. Through his attorney, the former mayor has denied any wrongdoing and hasn’t been charged with a crime. 

In late March, Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken acknowledged in media reports that she and Angels owner Arte Moreno could soon be meeting.

Aitken told LA Times Sports columnist Bill Shaikin that while she’s “not committed” to the former deal, it could be a starting point for a new one. 

Aitken’s father, Wylie, who once worked as legal consultant for the City of Anaheim on stadium negotiations during the tenure of Mayor Tom Tait, also serves as chairman of the Voice of OC board of directors. 

[Read: Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu Resigns After FBI Reveals Anaheim Corruption Probe]

The council’s expected discussion on Tuesday comes in the wake of retired OC Superior Court Judge Clay Smith, who’s overseeing the investigation, raising concerns in reports to officials about the city facing potential legal liability over releasing certain aspects of the probe. 

“We understand that the City Council has voted to release our final report to the public and, of course, we respect the Council’s decision. We do wish to respectfully note, however, that city employees may have protected privacy rights while participating in investigative interviews,” reads a November 2022 report to the old city council.

Yet, not long after November’s election that saw resort interests help elect their preferred majority on the city council, officials began questioning spending more on the probe and considered limiting its scope. 

Pressure from some residents and activists led the council to vote to double the budget for investigators, which came on the heels of the profile on investigators in the Voice of OC in February.

[Read: Anaheim Officials Reverse Course and Fully Fund an Independent City Corruption Probe]

A month later, Councilwoman Natalie Meeks began publicly raising concerns from the city council dais about legal issues the city could face by releasing the report in its entirety. 

Both Rubalcalva and Meeks were both elected with the aid of strong independent promotional mail marketing campaigns financed by large sums from political action committees connected to the resort community.

Disney’s chief campaign spending vehicle, Support Our Anaheim Resort political action committee, spent nearly $380,000 on Rubalcava’s campaign through independent expenditures on things like digital advertising and political mailers. 

The Disney-financed PAC spent roughly $547,000 for similar things on Meeks’ city council campaign. 

In a previous phone interview, Meeks said she publicly called for the discussion to address those liability issues, but said she supported releasing the findings.

“I want to be able to have that discussion with attorneys that are well versed in employment law and liability, so that we can be advised on what can be released and what things should be redacted or not released,” she said in late March.

Her call for a debate sparked renewed questions from some residents on whether they’d ever get an in-depth look at the extent of potential corruption at city hall alleged by federal agents.

[Read: Will Anaheim Officials Keep the Findings of a Taxpayer Funded Corruption Probe Secret?]

City council members are expected on Tuesday to consider hiring outside attorney Scott Tiedemann from the Liebert Cassidy Whitmore law firm in an effort to minimize that legal exposure, according to the staff report. 

If hired, Tiedemann is supposed to help city officials release the report  “to be consistent with the terms of the parties’ contract and to minimize the City’s exposure to litigation and chances of violating rights and privileges.”

“It should be noted that if there are misconduct findings against third parties or high- ranking public officials, that information is unlikely to be protected by the right to privacy and may be subject to immediate public release,” reads the staff report.

Smith and investigators have not said publicly or in interim reports attached to the agenda that the council should not release the findings of the final report, but did suggest officials consider making certain redactions to minimize privacy and employment rights concerns. 

However, Smith told previous council members that the investigative team is working on the assumption the report will be made public and has publicly said the report would be completed by July 1.

“We understand that this effort is being funded by taxpayer dollars,” Smith said at a city council meeting in October. “Those who are paying for our effort, are absolutely entitled to know what the result of our effort is.”

The previous council unanimously voted to release the findings of the city’s corruption probe following pressure from organizing groups like Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development, Chispa and numerous residents.

Prior to the gag order, lead investigators Jeff Love and Jeff Johnson, with about three decades of law enforcement experience each, said in interviews they had never seen a probe quite like this one.

They said they’re trying to interview a host of different people, including former council members, former city staff and political consultants but did not name names.

[Read: Pulling Back the Curtain: What Exactly Are Investigators Looking at in The Anaheim Corruption Probe?]

In a February interview, Smith said provided a little more information on what the potential criminal violations investigators have found.

“I’ll just say that we have not been able to fully explain the handling of funds and we’re just looking into that very earnestly,” Smith said. “It may turn out that there was no misconduct or it may turn out money was mishandled or misused. We’re just going to have to wait and see.” 

Spencer Custodio is the civic editor. You can reach him at Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio.

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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