Anaheim might be the next Orange County city to require subcontractors to disclose any state labor law violations they’ve made in the past five years before getting to build new apartment complexes or commercial plazas in the city.
On Oct. 24, Anaheim city council members voted 6-1 to direct staff to come back with an ordinance that would require such disclosures for residential projects that consist of 20 homes or more and commercial or industrial projects that consist of 20,000 square feet or more.
During the meeting, Mayor Ashleigh Aitken said the proposed ordinance would increase transparency on the people who are helping build and develop Anaheim.
She also pointed to her experiences with problematic subcontractors on the Orange County Fair Board Facilities committee.
“When we had somebody on our property that was in violation or was not following all of the rules that we set forth on a project – by the time we would find out they would be gone, they would dissolve the company, the same principles might then reopen shop as another company,” said Aitken, who proposed the ordinance.
Her father, Wylie Aitken, chairs Voice of OC’s board of directors.
Ted White, the city’s Planning & Building director, said the request for the ordinance came after a push from the carpenters union.
Councilman Jose Diaz was the dissenting vote and questioned why the law was needed and said it’s not the government’s role to intervene in business between private parties.
“What are we trying to achieve here? What are we trying to fix?” Diaz said. “Other agencies, other people that have put their hands in the city business – we decided we’re trying to break away from that. But because it’s a union, we allow them to do this. That’s disturbing to me.”
The move comes in the fallout of one of the biggest corruption scandals to rock OC and a series of reform discussions expected to come before elected officials.
In the past year and a half, federal agents in sworn FBI affidavits and independent investigators with decades of law enforcement experience allege in a corruption report that lobbyists and Disneyland resort interests heavily influence policy making at city hall.
The findings of those investigations also echo former Mayor Harry Sidhu’s guilty public corruption plea last month.
Meanwhile, similar types of subcontractor transparency laws are already in place in cities like Irvine and Santa Ana, according to a staff report.
John Hanna, a representative for the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters union, spoke out in favor of the law at Tuesday’s meeting saying it would “make Anaheim a better place and cleaner place to work if you’re in the construction industry.”
“What we want is just transparency. And if you don’t have a stick, you’re not going to get the you’re not going to get the info. God willing the stick will never have to be used,” he said.
Hanna was brought forth to answer questions from the council during their discussion on the ordinance – outside of his allotted time for public comment.
Diaz lambasted officials for allowing Hanna to speak outside the public comment portion.
“I had never seen this since I was elected to City Council – treating this as a public period and this is not a public hearing. It pissed me off,” he said. “This is wrong. You don’t get my vote.”
Councilman Steve Faessel said the ordinance will protect developers.
“All of us probably at one time or another know somebody that is in the development community that has got a project underway, and all kinds of things were found,” he said.
If the proposed law is adopted, subcontractors that fail to comply may receive violation notices starting with a $100 penalty. In extreme situations, building permits could be provoked, according to White, the city’s planning and building director.
“The building official would be required to make that determination, ultimately,” White said. “But it needs to be based on false information or something fairly egregious for this to have ever come into place.”
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.
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