Is Anaheim City Hall corrupt? 

That’s the question scores of Anaheim residents have been asking after a damning federal probe into City Hall surfaced last year, which detailed alleged pay to play schemes and the Disneyland resort industry’s outsized influence on policy making.

Those same resort interests heavily finance city council campaigns, including current members on the dais. 

Shortly after the FBI probe surfaced last year, former Mayor Harry Sidhu resigned and the former head of the local chamber of commerce pleaded guilty to a series of federal fraud charges. Sidhu, who hasn’t been charged with a crime, has maintained he’s committed no wrongdoing. 

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

In the aftermath, the Angel Stadium land sale also collapsed – a deal lambasted by many residents as one-sided and corrupt. 

And a previous city council hired independent investigators to conduct their own probe.

Now, residents are demanding to see the city investigation’s findings so they know just how far those alleged schemes go and who’s involved – from council members to executive staff.

Investigators were expected to turn in their final report Monday. Those same investigators have publicly told city council members they’ve uncovered potential criminal wrongdoing and have been speaking with OC District Attorney Todd Spitzer about the issue.

On July 4, the city received a draft preliminary investigation report and are awaiting supplemental documents.

But residents may not see those findings for another month.

And when they do it’s expected to have names and other information blacked out at the direction of council members.

Former City Councilman Jose Moreno has been largely quiet since he left elective office last December. 

That silence ended last month when Moreno spoke publicly at the Anaheim Democrats Club, criticizing the lack of reform from the city’s new city council majority, in remarks covered by the Orange Juice blog

In a Thursday phone interview with Voice of OC, Moreno said that even with a new city council – some who ran on promises of reform and transparency – residents still have a tough time trusting the city council.

Afterall, he says, not much has changed since the November election.

“We’re now seven months into their term and there’s been no discussion of campaign finance reform, no discussion of electoral reform, no discussions about ways that are good policy solutions limiting the undue influence of lobbying and donors influence on their decision making,” he said.

No current Anaheim City Council Members returned requests seeking comment. 

JL Group investigators and retired Orange County Superior Court Judge Clay Smith were hired by Moreno and the previous city council last August to conduct the probe – a few months after FBI agents alleged resort interests, through the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, had undue influence over city hall.

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

Federal agents also alleged in sworn affidavits that Sidhu tried to get $1 million in campaign support from Angels executives for ramming through the now dead Angel Stadium Land sale.

Read the affidavits here and here.

Residents like Fred Sigala Jr. have spoken out over the past year to ensure the final report gets publicly released in what they say have been attempts by officials to bury the taxpayer funded probe. 

He said the city will only release what’s in the best interest of city officials.

“What we’re waiting to see is if it’s going to be a report that has a bunch of black line redactions in it, or if it’s going to be something with things that have been just flatout omitted,” Sigala, a city Parks and Recreation commissioner, said in a Thursday interview.

“We’re waiting with bated breath to see what it’s going to physically look like.”

Just How Much Will be Released? 

City spokesman Mike Lyster refused to answer emailed questions on when the report would go public and instead pointed to a June 22 update on the city website.

“The preliminary report is then set to undergo review by outside attorney Scott Tiedemann of Los Angeles-based Liebert Cassidy Whitmore for compliance with state law, employee privacy and other considerations, with a goal of releasing a reviewed and redacted report within 30 days,” reads the city update.

“A progress update to the City Council is expected in July.”

The law firm has represented the city in the discrimination lawsuit filed in 2014 by former City Attorney Cristina Talley

City Attorney Rob Fabela is also expected to review the report.

Moreno said he is concerned that the released report will be heavily redacted under the guise of protecting employee rights and said Smith should have been in charge of the redactions.

“I am deeply concerned that for a month, this report will be reviewed by a contracted agency of the city that has other contracts with the city and will have an interest in further contracts of the city,” he said.

Mayor Ashleigh Aitken and the rest of the City Council didn’t respond to requests for comment. Her father, Wylie Aitken, Chairs Voice of OC’s Board of directors.

Moreno said the newly elected city council members are more concerned about their public image through posting ribbon cutting events on social media than publicly debating critical issues at council meetings.

“This council seems to be much more focused on the public perception and to deliver for those who donated to their campaigns, which is no different than previous councils,” Moreno said.

Similar to concerns voiced when he was a city councilman, Moreno said council deliberations are likely happening behind closed doors. 

“I fear that lack of public deliberation and exchange of ideas means that the debates are happening somewhere else and that was what led to this culture of corruption and pay to play politics,” Moreno said. “That’s what worries me.”

In the past, some officials have said the investigation’s findings could lead to reforms in Anaheim but in the state of the city delivered by Aitken earlier this year, she never mentioned the FBI corruption probe or said much about reform.

[Read: What’s Changed in Anaheim a Year After an FBI Corruption Probe Rocked City Hall?]

Moreno said he hopes council members will deliver reforms as a result of the investigation’s findings.

“We’ll find out in August that what they said on the campaign really had any truth and meaning to it, or was it just political rhetoric to get elected,” he said. “I’m hopeful that we’ll see a lot of proposals for change in August and September.”

In February, city hired investigators have already publicly said they have found potential criminal violations and have shared information with the OC District Attorney’s office about the probe.

“We have identified certain issues that could – we’re not arbitrators of the law – but could concern criminal violations of the law,” said Investigator Jeff Love in a February public meeting.

The probe could touch on some of the same interests that help fund city council campaigns every election.

Earlier this year, the city council voted to have an outside attorney redact information from their final report to address liability issues raised by Smith in progress reports to the council at the request of Councilwoman Natalie Meeks.

[Read: Anaheim Residents Can Expect a Redacted City Hall Corruption Probe Report]

Meeks received nearly $546,000 in campaign support from Disneyland resort interests last year, the most of any council member in recent years, through a local political action committee – Support Our Anaheim Resort (SOAR).

Disney, who spent over $1 million over each of the last two elections, poured $1.3 million this election into the Support Our Anaheim Resort political action committee.

The city made some of those progress reports from Smith publicly available through city agendas, but then abruptly stopped earlier this year. 

Voice of OC put in a public records request for the progress reports on June 7.

On July 3, the city refused to share any of the progress reports that weren’t made public earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Sigala said city hall watch dogs are eager to see the redacted report so they can attempt to piece together gaps. 

“The truth always wins out and comes out in the end,” he said.

“If it’s a complete report with black line redactions, it should give us a good indication of the situations that it is referring to anyway and we as the public have a right to assess it and speak out on what we know to have happened in this city.”

A number of signs in favor of the council authorizing additional funding to complete the internal corruption investigation were seen inside city hall during the Anaheim city council meeting on Feb. 28, 2023. (Omar Sanchez / Voice of OC)

FBI Probe Smashes City Hall Credibility 

Last May, the FBI accused former Mayor Sidhu in sworn affidavits of sharing privileged information with Angel executives amid negotiations over the sale of Angel Stadium.

The affidavits included evidence gathered through wired tapped phone calls and confidential informants.

After news of the FBI probe broke last May, residents immediately started showing up to city council meetings to publicly demand resignations, reforms and accountability. 

[Read: Fallout From the FBI Corruption Probe Triggers a New Kind of Open Mic Night in Anaheim]

During the initial fallout, the former Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Ament – who the FBI accused of being a ringleader of a powerful group of insiders who steered policymaking at city hall – pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges last year.

A previous resort-backed city council majority killed Angel Stadium land sale, urged Sidhu to resign and promised to conduct their own commissioned investigation during the months of backlash and uproar that followed the surfacing of the federal affidavits.

JL Group investigators Love and Jeff Johnson, who both each have three decades of law enforcement experience, were tasked with looking into the now terminated Angel Stadium land deal and other potential pay to play schemes involving previous council members, city staff and business interests.

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

As they kicked off their investigation, Anaheim voters elected four new city council members, some who were heavily backed by the same resort interests detailed in the FBI affidavits.

Moreno said the newly elected council members quickly eroded the public trust in the city’s investigation when they almost immediately tried to limit the scope of the probe and have investigators turn in an incomplete investigation.

“This council really put at risk the ability of the public to trust what ultimately they see, potentially in August,” Moreno said.

In February, the new council was hesitant to double the investigation cost from $750,000 to $1.5 million and give investigators more time to finish.

At first, council members wanted to limit the scope of the probe.

But after backlash from residents and a series of Voice of OC articles about the investigators, council members fully approved the investigation’s scope and increased cost. 

Council members also banned Smith and investigators from talking to the press at the request of Councilwoman Natalie Rubalcava.

Rubalcava received nearly $380,000 in campaign support from SOAR leading up to last November’s election. 

Sigala hopes the report leads to accountability in Anaheim.

“We feel that people should be held to account for their actions, their behavior, and even their breaking of the law,” he said.

“We would hope that the people that are in positions to do something about any potentially egregious acts that occurred would do their service to the community.”

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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