Could the Los Angeles Angels Major League baseball team soon find themselves without a stadium lease in Anaheim?

That’s a key question surfacing after former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu agreed this week to plead guilty to a series of federal charges, along with sharing critical city information with an Angels’ consultant during stadium negotiations.

The lease reinstatement, spearheaded by Sidhu in January 2019, was a key step in putting the Angels on a path towards the stadium sale, which fell apart when Sidhu resigned in May 2022. 

The stadium sale died the same day Sidhu resigned.

That day, Anaheim City Attorney Rob Fabela publicly said city officials might be able to nullify the lease if any wrongdoing was found in connection with negotiations. 

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

Shortly after taking office in January 2019, Sidhu successfully led the council majority at the time to reinstate the lease, which the team had torn up just before the November 2018 election.  

Sidhu won that election by just a few hundred votes. 

The lease reinstatement, billed then as just a one-year extension, actually opened the way for the negotiations that ultimately led to the stadium sale proposal that went to the city council in December 2019 and was ultimately approved. 

[Read: Santana: Anaheim Stadium Deal Goes Easy on Angels, Hard on Taxpayers]

In an open city council session last May, hours after Sidhu resigned, former Councilman Jose Moreno asked if the City of Anaheim could void the lease if fraud was found in connection with its negotiation.

Fabela replied that it could. 

“So yes, there’s definitely that potential. It’s a little more complicated because it’s an extension of a term in a deal, but yes I think there’s the same sort of argument that it’s a product of self dealing that could be possibly voidable,” Fabela said during the council meeting on May 24, 2022.

[Read: LA Angels Back Off on Stadium Deal After Anaheim Cancels, Refocuses Efforts on Baseball Season]

According to a secretly recorded conversation cited in the plea agreement, Sidhu was expecting $1 million in campaign support from team officials for ramming the land sale through. 

Mayor Ashleigh Aitken said this week in an interview she has questions about Sidhu’s interactions with Angels leadership.

“We’ll be calling to look into how some of these deals came to fruition,” she said in a Wednesday phone interview. “I have grave concern about the former mayor sharing confidential information and want to explore all of our options to make sure that we’re protecting the taxpayers.”

Aitken also said she wants to explore how the city can retain its assets and retain integrity in “future deals going forward.”

In a Thursday phone interview, former Mayor Tom Tait said city council members should definitely consider terminating the lease.

“The city attorney needs to look into all the stuff surrounding this stadium deal to determine whether any laws were broken,” he said.

Tait said he thought the lease Sidhu spearheaded was going to be a one-year extension but it turned out to be a new multi-year lease that gave parking and possession rights to the Angels.

“That was very damaging to the value of that parcel of that stadium land and damaging to the people in Anaheim,” he said. “It’s the city’s largest real estate asset and by giving the Angels a multi-year possession to it, it made the value much, much, much less.”

In the plea agreement that emerged this week, Sidhu admitted to sharing confidential information, including a city appraisal with former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Ament to give to Angels representatives. 

“Previously, in 2019, defendant had provided a confidential appraisal related to Angel Stadium to Ament to give to the Angels, months before the appraisal was made public,” reads the plea agreement. 

Ament, through his attorneys, declined to comment Thursday. 

[Read: Ex-Anaheim Mayor Sidhu Agrees to Plead Guilty to Corruption Charges]

Former City Councilman Moreno, who was in office during the negotiations and opposed the sale, said in a Wednesday phone interview that he wants to know what Angels owner Arte Moreno and other executives’ roles were in the controversy.

“My hope is that they of course did not have anything to do with it – that they were just benefiting from the callous greed of a mayor and his enablers,” he said.

Moreno said he hopes the city will take a look at the lease agreement and potentially end it.

“I do hope that given that the Angels may have violated the trust of the city by illegally obtaining and not reporting information that escrow monies and other dollars may be forfeited to the city – given how expensive and time consuming of a process that was,” he said.

Aitken didn’t answer questions about whether the city should look into terminating the stadium lease agreement with the Angels. 

When asked whether the city attorney should investigate reported leaks of city information to the Angels’ consultant during sale negotiations, Aitken said “I’m looking into that right now.” 

[Read: Anaheim Mayor and City Staff Offer Contradicting Angels Stadium Statements]

According to an FBI plea deal made public this week, Sidhu has agreed to admit to deleting emails about the stadium deal in an effort to impede the FBI corruption probe.

To read the 27-page plea agreement, click here.

The plea agreement made public this week raises further questions about the role Angels Baseball executives played in the stadium deal.

When Sidhu’s plea deal went public Wednesday, Angels’ Spokeswoman Marie Garvey didn’t take reporters’ questions but released a statement noting that the agreement showed no evidence of wrongdoing by the Angels.

On Thursday, she refused to comment altogether via text, referring reporters to her original statement. Garvey declined to answer questions on whether the Angels received the confidential information Sidhu leaked to a team consultant, according to federal plea documents. 

The plea agreement details a Sept. 20, 2020 email from an unnamed Angel consultant about preparation for a mock city council meeting to defend the sale of the stadium, which would’ve seen the stadium and the 150-acres it sits on sold for $150 million in cash later that month. 

According to federal documents, Sidhu “also deleted an email message that the Angels consultant had sent to defendant, two City Council members, two City employees including the Chief Communications Officer, the President of the Angels, a Senior Vice President of the Angels, Ament, and others on September 20, 2020, entitled ‘Angels Deal Debate/Council Prep – ROUND 1.”

At the time Anaheim’s Chief Communications Officer was Mike Lyster and the Angels President was John Carpino.

Some of the talking points included on the email chain were for the Mayor Pro Tem at the time. 

Stephen Faessel, who sits on the current city council, was Anaheim’s Mayor Pro Tem in September 2020 and backed the stadium sale deal.

Faessel did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. The rest of the city council also did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Garvey, the Angels’ spokeswoman, did not respond to questions about the mock city council meetings.

Questions about the integrity of the city’s stadium negotiations also come in the wake of a damning 353-page independent corruption investigation report alleging pay to play schemes in Anaheim that has led some residents to conclude city hall has lost legitimacy.

[Read: As Anaheim Waffles on Corruption Reform, Residents Question City Hall’s Legitimacy]

City investigators said the Angels refused to be interviewed or cooperate with their probe.

Tait said it was disappointing the Angels didn’t participate in the investigation.

“I think it would have been helpful,” he said. 

“I don’t think it looks good for them.”

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

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