Anaheim city leaders are facing a new investigation into corruption at city hall, this time from Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer, who after over a year of silence confirmed this week that his office is investigating Anaheim.
The confirmation comes after a year and a half of turmoil in Anaheim that started when sworn FBI affidavits helped stop the sale of Angel Stadium in May 2022, announcing a corruption probe in a scathing affidavit filed in court that immediately triggered Mayor Harry Sidhu’s resignation and a later guilty plea to a series of corruption charges.
In September, Sidhu admitted to lying to investigators about trying to ram through the Angel Stadium land sale for $1 million in campaign support.
Officials from the California Attorney General’s office won’t “confirm or deny” a corruption investigation into Anaheim.
So far, all the criminal investigations have been handled by the U.S. Department of Justice, while city leaders also hired independent investigators from the JL Group to conduct their own review of corruption at city hall after the FBI probe became public.
So far, both the FBI and independent investigators essentially came to the same conclusion: City Hall is controlled by Disneyland area resort interests.
Spitzer confirmed the district attorney’s office is officially investigating the concerns raised in Anaheim late Wednesday after saying his office would review the allegations before taking any action in August.
In a response to a request for comment from Voice of OC, Spitzer confirmed through a spokesperson the issue “is being investigated,” but did not clarify anything beyond that.
Federal prosecutors have already arranged plea deals with Sidhu and former CEO of the city’s Chamber of Commerce Todd Ament, who both pleaded guilty to multiple corruption charges.
That JL Group’s report highlighted a series of problems at city hall, like special interests allegedly steering $1.5 million of COVID bailout money into a Chamber of Commerce-controlled nonprofit.
State auditors are currently investigating the potential misuse of tax money.
The report, along with the FBI affidavits and Sidhu’s guilty plea has triggered Anaheim officials to consider a host of reform proposals, including tightening lobbyist regulations this fall and officials in other cities like Irvine, Orange and San Diego to call for similar changes.
The JL Group’s investigators said publicly they met with Spitzer and more than a dozen of his staff to discuss their report in March, highlighting what they felt were the best avenues for a criminal prosecution and possible corruption.
“We revealed information concerning what we believed was a potential criminal conspiracy and a theft/wrongful diversion of $1.5 million dollars of public funds to the Anaheim Chamber,” investigators wrote in their report.
They said Spitzer listened to their concerns and asked questions, but they never heard back after that.
“JLG has had no further contact with the District Attorney’s staff in relationship to this meeting about the investigation,” investigators wrote in their report published July 1, 2023.
The JL Group did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday afternoon on whether they’d heard back since the publication of their report.
The Anaheim City Council earlier this year also directed staff to send an unredacted version of the JL Group’s investigation to the FBI and the State Attorney General Rob Bonta, as well as Spitzer.
Hosam Elattar assisted in the reporting of this story.
Noah Biesiada 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 @NBiesiada.
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