After Anaheim city leaders ordered a look under their own hood, the investigators they hired are raising questions about the role of the city’s police union in a precarious political environment now under investigation by the FBI. 

The police union is one of the largest spenders on citywide elections, putting $358,000 toward its preferred candidates last year – some of whom were backed by the powerful Disneyland resort – as well as resort-controlled campaign fundraising committees. 

Based on interviews with city-registered lobbyists, investigators cast the union as part of the “cabal” described by the FBI in affidavits that surfaced in 2022.

Investigators said the shadowy cadre is composed of the Chamber of Commerce, Disney and other special interests around town that allegedly influence policymaking.

“The apparent plan was that the Platinum Triangle, the Resort, and Disney would all prosper together,” investigators wrote.

Requests for comment from the police union went unreturned as of Wednesday.

The report also paints the picture of a police union that, unwittingly or not, went to bat for the now-disgraced former mayor, Harry Sidhu, in a case of alleged gas station favoritism around 2019.

Meet Isa Bahu: His family owned the Arco Gas Station that once ran the southeast corner of La Palma Avenue and Imperial Highway in Anaheim Hills since 1967.

In the mid-90s, the city widened the street and expropriated the property, leading to a lawsuit and lost business for the Bahus, who eventually regained control of the property in 2003. But on site soil contamination required the station be removed.

“We never objected to the station being torn down because the city had been telling us they would allow us to rebuild the station,” Bahu told investigators.

But across the street stood a competitor Shell station, belonging to former Mayor Sidhu’s friend and campaign fund-raiser, Navaz Malik, who didn’t respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

What followed was a series of City Council denials of the Bahus’ gas station project, overturning a prior approval of the plans by the city’s planning commission at Malik’s request, investigators wrote. 

Investigators say a number of big names appeared throughout the process to either to weigh in or offer services on the Bahus’ project approval. 

Among them: 

The police union.

In April of 2019, the police union’s then-president, Edgar Hampton, sent a letter to the Planning Commission opposing Bahu’s project over unaddressed public safety concerns, citing a document that showed the traffic accidents for that intersection over the prior year.

City employees told investigators it was unnecessary – and highly unusual – for the police union to have such a presence in the gas station deliberations, handing traffic studies to political consultants and taking positions on otherwise mundane project approvals. 

“I was aghast. It was very dirty, in my opinion,” said the city’s HR Director and former Interim City Manager, Linda Andal, to investigators in their report. 

Andal told investigators she felt “there was no reason for the POA (police officers association) to have such a strong presence at this meeting, and after the project was denied, she thought to herself, ‘We are going in a different direction.’”

Hampton’s letter was later “rescinded” by the police union, according to Bahu.

The union president of six years had handed a traffic survey of the area to a police union political consultant named Pete Mitchell, according to Hampton’s statements to investigators. 

Asked what purpose Mitchell had for the survey, Hampton told investigators, “I am not sure, maybe it was for something that they wanted to look at to stop a project. I wasn’t interested in getting down into the weeds on something like this.”

In looking at the gas station issue, investigators also interviewed former City Council member Lori Galloway, who reportedly told investigators, “I think they got really, totally screwed.”

Asked why she felt the Bahu family didn’t get treated appropriately, Galloway replied, “Because I know the people that Shell hired, I know the lobbyist that Shell hired to make sure that Arco didn’t open, Pete Mitchell.”

In a Wednesday phone interview, Mitchell denied being hired by Shell.

He said he helped the Malik family for personal reasons, as he lived in nearby Yorba Linda at the time, adding “I would gas up at the Shell station before I would jump on the freeway in the morning.”

“They approached me, they seemed to be a very clean cut family, very kind family. I thought they had a good story,” Mitchell said, arguing it was his view the city was taking more pains to accommodate the Bahu family, which he said he also respected.

Hampton was unable to be reached for comment as of Wednesday.

Asked by investigators about his letter opposing the project, Hampton replied that he couldn’t recall — “It might have been just looking at the traffic and if concessions had been made.”

Investigators wrote that when asked again if he recalled drafting a letter opposing the project — and then taking the letter back — Hampton said, “it was probably because of that, because it started to get messy. I didn’t need any headaches like that.”

“I just didn’t want that and it was a bad look,” Hampton stated for the report. “You know what I mean, I didn’t want our reputation linked with stopping something or starting something for cronyism.”

Hampton told investigators, “I was asked a specific question regarding impact on traffic and that is what I went forward with. The next thing I know, hey this guy is related to this guy.”

Bahu reflected on the gas station dispute to investigators:

“I didn’t know how hooked in the guy across the street was to these politicians,” he said for the report. “I didn’t realize how incestuous these people are.”

Investigators say the Anaheim Police Dept. refused to help them unlock two iPhones that were “surrendered” by former Mayor Sidhu – who resigned following revelations of an FBI probe into City Hall last year that accused him of pay to play schemes – and former Council Member Trevor O’Neil, Sidhu’s political ally on the dais, for forensic examination.

Sidhu has not been charged with a crime and has denied any wrongdoing through his lawyer.

Investigators say the iPhones were locked and no passcode was given.

“Contact was made with Police Department Administration requesting they assist this Investigation by utilizing their licensed GrayKey software to unlock those devices,” investigators with the city-contracted JL Group wrote in their report released last Monday.

And after those investigators’ “repeated” requests:

“Police Administration refused to provide assistance using GrayKey,” they wrote, adding they were advised that “such usage would violate the terms of their user license agreement by unlocking a device that was not involved in a Departmental criminal investigation.”

Reached for comment about this section of the report on Wednesday, department spokesperson Sgt. Jon McClintock said, “We can only use that equipment for criminal investigations.”

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