ANAHEIM, Calif. (May 19, 2022, and ongoing) ― The city of Anaheim and all members of Anaheim’s City Council have condemned actions documented in a federal investigation of Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu and a former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce executive.
We learned the extent of this just as our community did ― for the first time the week of May 16 ― and share the shock, dismay and frustration of many.
In the days ahead, Anaheim will continue to work administratively and with the City Council to address this difficult moment and move forward in the best interest of our city.
Residents, businesses and visitors should have no concerns about our city’s commitment to serving our community. Police, fire, utilities, Community Services, Public Works, Planning and all parts of city continue their work as usual.
Here is a running timeline and how Anaheim has responded:
May 16: Anaheim learns of an affidavit in a federal investigation of Sidhu; Anaheim publicly shares affidavit on city website and with major media outlets. Anaheim issues a statement of being troubled and dismayed about what is described and that the actions were outside the city’s knowledge and process on the Angel Stadium of Anaheim site. You can read more here.
May 16-ongoing: Anaheim shares information and comments with TV news, newspapers, online publications and other media.
May 17: Anaheim learns of a federal criminal complaint against former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce executive Todd Ament.
May 17: Anaheim City Council holds regularly scheduled meeting with Mayor Sidhu absent; Council Members Avelino Valencia and Jose F. Moreno call for Sidhu resignation, Mayor Pro Tem Trevor O’Neil and Council Members Jose Diaz, Gloria Ma’ae and Stephen Faessel express serious concerns.
May 18: Mayor Pro Tem O’Neil and Council Members Faessel and Diaz issue a formal request for the mayor’s resignation to Sidhu’s lawyer. “The deeply troubling issues that have come to our attention involving Mayor Sidhu since May 16, 2022, raise serious concerns and questions about his ability to continue as mayor of Anaheim,” the letter reads. “I and my City Council colleagues now must seek to support the continuity of municipal government, uphold the public trust and continue with the business of the City of Anaheim without the distraction and uncertainty created by the federal investigation involving Mayor Sidhu.” The city is awaiting response to the letter. You can read more here.
May 18: In a separate statement Council Member Gloria Ma’ae calls for Mayor Sidhu’s resignation.
May 19: Anaheim learns through media reports that cannabis consultant Melahat Rafiei was a cooperating witness in the investigation into former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce executive Todd Ament. Rafiei steps down as a commissioner on Anaheim's Culture and Heritage Commission, an appointment made by former Anaheim Council member Jordan Brandman, who stepped down from the Council in 2021. Rafiei reportedly worked federal investigators as the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce advocated for a proposal for Anaheim to allow cannabis businesses to operate in the city; the City Council rejected any change to the city's prohibiting of cannabis businesses on June 9, 2020.
May 19-20: Anaheim Mayor Pro Tem Trevor O'Neil, Council Member Stephen Faessel and City Manager Jim Vanderpool share with media that they attended a Dec. 2, 2020, meeting referenced in the complaint against former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce executive Ament, saying what they recalled attending was a business meeting focused on the economic, city budget and other impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the pending rollout of vaccines and other issues related to Anaheim's economy. "What I attended was a business meeting, like others I have attended with various stakeholders in our city," Mayor Pro Tem O'Neil said. "If this meeting or any other meeting was viewed differently by others, that was not my experience or understanding." You can see documents from the meeting here. Note: cover page appears to contain wrong date, which should read Dec. 2, 2020.
May 20: Anaheim receives a letter on behalf of SRB Management LLC, pending buyer of the stadium site and made up of Angels Baseball owner Arte Moreno and family, saying the stadium site sale was negotiated in good faith with extensive public review and potential benefit for the city of Anaheim and those it serves. The letter asks for the sale to move forward by June 14, 2022. You can read the letter here. Anaheim issues statement: "We have received and are evaluating the letter. The stadium site plan was pursued in good faith and on the merits of the proposal and the benefits it could bring to our city. While what has come to light this week falls outside that process, it nonetheless raises questions, concerns and complications. City Council members have expressed initial reservations about whether this current proposal can go forward. We will look to the May 24 City Council meeting for a full discussion and direction."
May 22: Anaheim learns that Melahat Rafiei resigns as a Democratic National Committee state representative and as secretary for the California Democratic Party; the moves follow her May 19 resignation from Anaheim's Culture and Heritage Commission and the OC Fair Board.
May 23: Anaheim receives notice that Mayor Harry Sidhu is resigning, effective May 24. A vacancy will be addressed by the City Council in consultation with city attorney, city clerk, Anaheim’s charter and state law in coming weeks. You can read more here.
May 24: Anaheim’s City Council unanimously votes to void 2020 agreement to sell Angel Stadium of Anaheim and see development around it. “The stadium proposal was evaluated and approved on its merits,” Mayor Pro Tem Trevor O’Neil said. “However knowing that there may have been an element of corruption that brought the final product to us, we cannot move forward in good conscience.” The action directs the city attorney to immediately void the stadium site sale and notify buyer SRB Management. The action also starts a legal process that will involve filing a motion for declaratory judgment in Orange County Superior Court based on concerns of conflict of interest and that the transaction was not at arm’s length.