ANAHEIM, Calif. (May 2, 2023) — Anaheim’s City Council on Tuesday reaffirmed a 2022 vote to make public an investigation report while ensuring compliance with state law, employee privacy and other considerations to protect the city and its residents from legal issues, liability and cost.
The action does not change the scope of the investigation, the independent work of investigators or the Council’s prior decision to make the report public.
Instead, the Council’s updated vote seeks to ensure the city adheres to state law, privacy rights, labor agreements and other legal considerations.
“This ensures that we have a readable document that safely and legally summarizes what happened,” Mayor Ashleigh Aitken said.
Any findings of misconduct by high-ranking public officials and outside parties is likely to be subject to unredacted, public release and not protected by privacy rights.
Any suspected criminal activity would also be shared with the Orange County District Attorney.
“This in no way slows or limits the scope of the investigation that will go forward,” said Council Member Natalie Meeks, who requested Council review of legal considerations raised by the investigation. “This will tell what happened without violating people’s rights.”
The Council also voted to hire outside attorney Scott Tiedemann of Los Angeles-based Liebert Cassidy Whitmore as special counsel to ensure a report is made available to the public without violating laws as well as other considerations.
Tiedemann will advise the city and work with independent investigators from Laguna Niguel-based JL Group LLC and retired Judge Clay Smith, who is serving as the neutral administrator for the investigation.
The city’s special counsel will work with Anaheim’s city attorney and human resources department as necessary to ensure a report does not violate laws or employee protections.
The special counsel will not work with the City Council or anyone else at the city in addressing any report redactions.
"This takes the Council out of any decision-making," Mayor Aitken said.
The investigation was commissioned on Aug. 9, 2022, to produce a report on issues that arose in May 2022 and the subsequent resignation of the city’s former mayor Harry Sidhu, including questions raised about campaign contributions and a proposal to sell the Angel Stadium of Anaheim site.
You can see a comprehensive overview and timeline of the issue here.
A follow-up Council vote in November 2022 directed the public release of the report upon release, without discussing or considering any legal consequences of issuing a report that might violate state laws and employee privacy protections.
Tuesday's vote to ensure compliance with state law and other considerations came at the recommendation of Anaheim’s city attorney and human resources department as well as neutral administrator Smith, who has cautioned the city about employee privacy protections under the California Labor Code.
“I want to alert you to one concern,” Clay first wrote in November. “We understand that the City Council has voted to release our final report to the public and, of course, we respect the Council’s decision. We do wish respectfully to note, however, that city employees may have protected privacy rights while participating in investigative interviews. As a result, it may be appropriate for the city to consider whether any redactions are appropriate prior to releasing the final report.”
In December, Clay wrote: “(W)e do urge the city to consider taking appropriate action (perhaps by redaction) to protect implicated privacy rights of city employees and possible legal privileges before releasing the report.”
In January, Clay wrote: “… City employees or officials ultimately identified in the report may have applicable privacy and employment rights impacted by releasing the report. We urge the city to review carefully these issues prior to the release of the final report.”
You can read Smith’s full comments here.
The report, originally expected to be completed in March, now is expected to be done by July 1 after investigators in February asked for additional time and funding.
A final report based on review by the city’s special counsel would be expected in the following weeks.