Businessman Boasted To Anaheim Police Chief He Will Fund The Law Enforcement Accountability Network
Michael Gennaco, William Taormina, and Stephen Faessel sitting together at the June 25th “Garden Party Fundraiser” for the Law Enforcement Accountability Network, an ACLU-backed group run by Theresa Smith.
By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher
William Taormina boasted to Police Chief Raul Quezada and Deputy Chief Julian Harvey that he intended to support the ACLU-backed Law Enforcement Accountability Network “financially and with my time,” according to an email the Anaheim Investigator obtained from the Anaheim Police Department through a California Public Records Act request filed back in August.
The email in question, dated Wednesday, June 28, 2017, was sent out by Taormina to Quezada and Harvey three days after he made a $1,000 donation to LEAN at their June 25th “Garden Party Fundraiser,” held at the Villa Park home of Belinda Escobosa-Helzer, former Director of the Orange County office of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
“Dear Raul and Julian,” Taormina began:
Over this last weekend, I attended a garden party held in honor of Teresa [sic] Smith’s son, Caesar Cruz. The party was meant to raise money for the new organization that Teresa started known as LEAN (Law Enforcement Accountability Network). The party was a success with about 50 attendees including both Councilmen Steve Faessel and Jose Moreno. I intend to support this organization financially and with my time because I believe it is going to be a positive relationship builder between our law enforcement community and the folks that are presently less supportive of us. We need to keep building bridges and Teresa is an excellent spokesperson for her side of the equation.
In the same email, Taormina also urged Quezada to appoint Yesenia Rojas, a resident of Anna Drive, a working-class neighborhood in Central Anaheim, to his advisory board saying “she is all about the underserved, the youth, and quality of life in our neighborhoods, especially hers….”
“Thank you for you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you. It is an honor to serve alongside you both,” he concluded.
A copy of the email can be downloaded here.
Who is William Taormina?
As the Investigator previously reported, William Taormina is a wealthy real estate developer who serves on the advisory board of Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada. He has been on this body since September 2005 when former Police Chief John Welter created it “as a vehicle to advise and counsel him on matters affecting public safety and to act as a sounding board for police/community relations.”
Before William started dabbling in real estate full-time, both he and his brother Vincent ran Taormina Industries Inc., a solid-waste disposal company founded by their father in 1948. According to the Los Angeles Times, the privately held firm was a $100 million operation that served more than one million curbside customers in Anaheim, Brea, Garden Grove, Placentia, Villa Park, Yorba Linda and Colton.
In 1997, Taormina Industries merged into Republic Industries Inc., a trash hauling company then-controlled by H. Wayne Huizenga, a multi-billionaire, in a deal worth about $250 million in stock. “Brothers William and Vincent Taormina will receive 6.5 million shares [from Republic] and will operate the Anaheim company as a separate unit under its own name,” the Times reported.
Over the past thirty years, Taormina has been a major player in Anaheim city politics, pouring tens of thousands of dollars of cash into the campaigns of candidates and elected officials, both Democrat and Republican alike.
Taormina has also donated generously to many local charities and non-profits. He is the founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Anaheim Community Foundation, an organization that not only has provided financial support for many different senior and youth programs, but has been responsible for managing tens of thousands of dollars in funds for Kash for K-9’s, Cops 4 Kids, and other projects supported by the Anaheim Police Department.
Despite his presence at the ACLU fundraiser, Taormina is no liberal. Back in 2012, Taormina and his family, both directly and through businesses under their control, gave $5,250 in campaign contributions to a city council candidate by the name of Steven Chavez Lodge, an ex-Santa Ana Police detective, who had been sued multiple times in state and federal courts for alleged “police brutality.” Later that same year, the Register quoted him as asking then-Police Chief Welter why there wasn’t a “blanket [gang] injunction” on the entire City of Anaheim to fight crime. The LA Weekly reported in 2014 that Taormina successfully pressured the MUZEO Museum and Cultural Center to cancel a “graffiti” art exhibit featuring the works of prominent Mexican muralists.
For more about the June 25th “Garden Party Fundraiser” for LEAN, please click here.
As a mother who has lost her only son to police execution, I find this article to be not only truthful, but showing me and others what Teresa Smith agenda has always been about. She used my son’s and other son’s murders to manipulate her cause which shows here to get funds from the very same people that she “claimed” to hold accountable??? There is a Spanish saying, in English it translates to “You have No Shame!!!!
October 16th, 2017
Dear Duane Roberts and the Anaheim Investigator,
I enjoyed your recent blog post and wanted let you know how much I respect and admire Teresa Smith and her good faith efforts in starting the LEAN organization. It takes a great deal of personal fortitude for Teresa to continue to re-live her pain each time she speaks about the loss of her son. She is not bitter or radical, instead, she is constructive, patient, and kind. Her heart is broken but it is continuing to generate love. Teresa is a wonderful woman and an inspiration to all that know her. I was honored to have been invited to her first LEAN event and plan to attend more of them in the future. Nothing but good can come from her efforts of increased communications and awareness between the Anaheim Police and the community at large. Teresa is setting the proper example of how to create positive working relationships as shown by her personal efforts. Our police department is responding, listening, and taking seriously any suggestions to make their work more effective and compatible with the entire community. As a charter member of the Chief’s Advisory Board, I personally see ongoing evidence of this focus by our excellent Police Chief and his entire team of command staff and line officers.
I also want to acknowledge the presence and support of Council Members Steve Faessel and Dr. Jose Moreno at the LEAN event. Each of them spoke with respect and compassion for the community. They acknowledged the work of the ACLU and how they, too, wanted to continue to work hard to improve community relations efforts in every aspect of law enforcement. That shows me real leadership. I applaud them collectively and individually for their boldness and unwavering commitment.
As you pointed out in your blog, after I heard Yesenia Rojas speak at the LEAN event, and, heard the speeches that described why she too was being singled out for positive recognition I was blown away. I thought to myself “THIS is the kind of person that we need as a community influencer in Anaheim” She spends every spare moment she has trying to figure out ways of making her micro-neighborhood (and our city in general) a better, cleaner, safer, and more compassionate place for all citizens. If you don’t know her you really need to meet her. One day I hope she will throw herself into politics and run for City Council. I would personally walk precincts for her to spread her love for the city and see her elected to lead by example.
Towards the end of your blog you rose the question as to “why all these people came together to raise money for LEAN” and so forth. The answer is simple: It is time to put away the decades old, stale differences we have had in the sub-sets of this town and start working together, RESPECTING one another, being truly KIND to one another, LISTENING to one another, and thinking of our fellow citizens as PARTNERS in the future of our great city. Teresa Smith has launched LEAN for these reasons. God’s Speed to her!
Should any of your readers have questions or wish to discuss my personal intent or mission as to anything I have done in my last 66 years as an Anaheim stakeholder, I would encourage them to write me an email, or call me anytime.
Duane, thank you again for bringing the good work of Teresa Smith into the sunlight.