State Attorney General Rob Bonta and the FBI are expected to see all 300 pages of a $1.5 million independent corruption probe into Anaheim City Hall.
California’s top cop and the bureau will get to review the complete results of the investigation more than a year after federal agents alleged a shadowy group of resort interests and lobbyists controlled policy discussions in Anaheim in sworn affidavits that surfaced last year.
On Tuesday, City Council members voted unanimously to send the unredacted version of their commissioned investigation into city hall to both Bonta and the FBI – an agency whose own probe into Anaheim killed the Angel Stadium land sale.
It’s a report that elected officials say they haven’t seen themselves.
“We have not seen the report, nor even one page. All we know is that it was turned into the city and its 300 pages,” City Councilman Jose Diaz said at Tuesday’s meeting.
The vote came after Councilwoman Natalie Rubalcava requested a copy be sent to Bonta’s office last week and after the council voted to provide the unredacted report to OC District Attorney Todd Spitzer earlier this year.
City officials received the roughly 300-page report this month.
Bonta is the same attorney general who was about to let the controversial Angel Stadium sale to move forward despite stating it violated the state’s surplus land sale act and fining Anaheim $96 million.
Then revelations of an FBI corruption probe surfaced last May, which touched on stadium negotiations.
In turn, Bonta successfully got an OC Superior Court judge to halt the stadium sale.
Meanwhile, residents await a blacked out version of that same report to be publicly released by the end of the month or in early August.
Some residents have been questioning just how detailed a look under the hood they will get of their city hall.
“The public needs to know the truth,” resident Mark Richard Daniels said during public comment at the July 11 meeting. “No matter what it is, we need to know the truth of what’s happened these last few years or however far it goes back.”
Some question if elected officials have interfered in the probe taxpayers funded.
On Tuesday, Fred Sigala, a parks and recreation city commissioner, criticized Rubalcava for apparently speaking to people interviewed by investigators after she was quoted in a recent OC Register article and called for a public apology from the councilwoman.
Rubalcava told the OC Register reporter she caught wind of a potential policy recommendation to overhaul the city’s ticket disclosure policy for publicly owned venues like the Honda Center and Angel Stadium.
“Your behavior throughout this investigation has seemed very inappropriate, hypocritical and sensationalizing and so I lost confidence in the fact that you could actually be neutral,” Sigala said.
“You could have compromised the integrity of the process.”
Mike Robbins, resident and member of the People’s Homeless Task Force, said that withholding the report from residents would not only breach their trust but could result in costly lawsuits for the city.
“Anaheim City Council, you have a fiduciary duty to act in the public’s best interests and the failure to release the report unredacted is a breach of that duty, eroding public trust in the council’s ability to govern effectively,” he said Tuesday.
The Task Force is currently embroiled in a transparency lawsuit over the Angel Stadium negotiations, with council members secretly rejecting a settlement earlier this year that would’ve pushed for a more public process on the next round of negotiations.
City officials, including Mayor Ashleigh Aitken, have said the redactions to the report will be limited to protect whistleblowers and protect employee privacy.
“If it seems that information has been left out, or there is an incomplete picture, I will work with the city attorney’s office to make sure that there is a justifiable reason,” Aitken told the Voice of OC last week.
Aitken’s father, Wylie Aitken, chairs Voice of OC’s board of directors.
Now more than a year since the fallout of the FBI corruption probe, Anaheim residents may have a more clear picture on just what was happening at city hall.
In the FBI’s sworn affidavits that surfaced in May 2022, federal agents alleged that resort interests through the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce held undue influence over city hall.
Federal agents also accused former Mayor Harry Sidhu of trying to ram through the now canned Angel Stadium land sale deal for $1 million in campaign support from the Angels, as well as sharing critical information with ballclub executives during the negotiations.
Sidhu – through his lawyer – claimed innocence, but resigned the same month the affidavits went public.
Last August, the previous city council decided to hire independent investigators and a retired superior court judge to conduct their own investigation into alleged pay to play schemes at city hall.
They later promised to make the final investigation report public.
In December, new city council members were sworn in – some who campaigned on transparency and reform in the wake of the FBI probe and others who had their campaigns boosted by the very same resort interests touched on in the probe.
In February, the new council was reluctant to increase the funding for the probe without limiting its scope – something the investigators successfully refused to do. In the end, elected officials doubled the budget for the probe to a total of $1.5 million.
The council also barred investigators from talking to the press after a series of stories from the Voice of OC and voted to use an outside attorney to redact the final report before it went public.
The council’s actions came after investigators publicly told city council members in early February that they’ve found potential criminal wrongdoing in the probe.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
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