Archive for the category “Mike Lyster”

Mayor Might Have to Recuse Himself From Pot Decision Because Son is Registered to Vote at Father’s Estate


Rohan & Harry II

Rohan Sidhu (far left) watches his father, Harry Sidhu, being sworn in as mayor of Anaheim on Tuesday December 4, 2018.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

Rohan Sidhu, the 23-year old son of Mayor Harry Sidhu, lists his father’s four-acre estate in Anaheim Hills as being his primary residence, according to a copy of his most recent voter registration form The Anaheim Investigator obtained from the Orange County Registrar of Voters last week. The form in question, an affidavit filed on May 8, 2015 and signed under penalty of perjury by Rohan himself, states that “145 S. Vista Grande” is his “home address.” Documents in the possession of the Orange County Clerk-Recorder show this property is owned by Mayor Sidhu.

The fact Rohan still maintains his father’s home as his primary residence raises concerns about whether or not Mayor Sidhu can legally participate in any upcoming discussions or votes on the legalization of cannabis businesses within the city. As The Investigator previously reported, Rohan is a “pot entrepreneur.” Not only does he run a firm called RSSC LLC that offers “design and operational consulting for the legal cannabis industry,” but he boasts that he helped set up “OC’s largest Type 6 cannabis oil Extraction and Distillation facility” in the City of Costa Mesa in 2018.

Voter Registration Form -- Rohan Sidhu II

The Mayor Might Have to Recuse Himself From Pot Decision

The California Political Reform Act of 1974–the main state law which deals with issues pertaining to “conflict of interest”–makes it perfectly clear: Public officials are prohibited from making, participate in making, or using their official position to influence any government decision in which they have a financial interest. A public official has an interest in a decision if it is “reasonably foreseeable” the decision will have a “material financial effect” on one or more of their interests.

According to Regulation 18703.5, one such interest a public official has is in their “personal finances” and those of their immediate family. A government decision will have an effect on this interest if the decision will result in personal expenses, income, assets, or liabilities of the official or their immediate family increasing or decreasing. The law, however, defines “immediate family” as being the spouse and any dependent children–meaning children who are below 18-years of age.

But the issue here is not that Rohan is Mayor Sidhu’s son, but how any government decision the latter makes might affect his “personal finances.” The fact Rohan lists his father’s home as his primary residence suggests he lives there. Because he is a cannabis business consultant, he could profit from any decision his father makes to legalize them. As a result, Mayor Sidhu’s “personal finances” could be affected in that his son might be in a better position to help him defray the costs of living on his estate.

The Investigator Reaches Out to Lyster, Sidhu, and Mezzacappa

The Investigator contacted Mike Lyster, Chief Communications Officer for the City of Anaheim, and asked him about how City Attorney Robert Fabela might feel about this matter and if Mayor Sidhu would be required to recuse himself from any discussions or votes on the legalization of cannabis businesses. “Should this item come before the Council, we would expect Anaheim’s city attorney to offer any guidance as relevant and appropriate,” he replied.

The Investigator also sent emails to Mayor Sidhu and Annie Mezzaccapa, his Chief of Staff, asking them for confirmation that Rohan lives with the mayor on his four-acre estate; if he intends to release an “official statement” about his “son’s ties to cannabis businesses in the interest of full public disclosure,” and; if he will be “recusing himself” from “city council discussions or votes that address the issue of legalizing cannabis businesses.” So far, none of them have responded.

Wife of Anaheim Blog Publisher is Involved in Anaheim First, Senior VP of Chamber of Commerce

Matthew and Laura Cunningham are greeted as they arrive at Mayor Harry Sidhu’s “State of the City” address at the City National Grove last March

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

For several months now, Matthew Cunningham, the publisher of the Anaheim Blog, a website that covers city politics from a right-wing perspective, has shamelessly promoted Anaheim First, a 501(c)(3) non-profit founded by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, as being a “grass-roots community organization.”

In one article after another, Cunningham has lauded it as a being a “non-political” group made up of “residents of all ages, from every walk of life and every part of the city” who got together “to develop a resident-driven plan for guiding city investment in their neighborhoods,” blasting critics who call it a “front” for big business.

But in all of the articles he has penned about Anaheim First so far, he has neglected to mention two crucial details. First, his wife, Laura Cunningham, has played a behind-the-scenes role in organizing “town hall forums” for this non-profit. And second, she has been Senior Vice President of the Anaheim Chamber at least since July.

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Laura Cunningham oversees a breakout group at the Anaheim First Neighborhood Leadership Summit on July 10th.

Hidden in Plain Sight

Laura’s involvement with Anaheim First isn’t exactly a secret. Her work for this group was first exposed by Gabriel San Roman, an investigative journalist for the now-defunct OC Weekly. In an article San Roman wrote back in September, he made the following observations while attending their first “town hall forum” in West Anaheim:

From the back of the room, Laura Cunningham directed [Karen] Gulley to wrap up her presentation so that the town hall could turn to breakout groups. She’s the wife of Anaheim Blog’s Matt Cunningham who, unsurprisingly, wrote uncritically of the event while finding an opportunity to hammer away at Unite Here Local 11 union members for crashing the discussion session. Todd Ament, Anaheim Chamber of Commerce president and Anaheim First board member, confirmed to the Weekly that Laura worked for the Chamber, but not Anaheim First. The distinction didn’t seem to matter much during the town hall–or after. Laura helped clean up the gym to close out the night.

Documents in the possession of the Anaheim Investigator corroborate his findings. One memorandum, typed up by Deputy City Manager Greg Garcia, recorded a meeting that took place at city hall on Friday, August 9th where city staff met with consultants involved in the “Anaheim First Community Assessment.”

“This is a meeting to discuss the next steps of the group and our role,” wrote Garcia. “PlaceWorks [a consulting firm hired by Anaheim First] will be a part of the meeting to talk us through their plan.” Attendees included representatives from the Anaheim Chamber: Todd Ament, President and CEO, and Laura, who was listed as a contact.

Emails show that Laura was quietly monitoring communications between Anaheim First, it’s consultants, and the City of Anaheim about arrangements being made to use public facilities for their “town hall forums.” Her email address “laura@anaheimchamber.org” is clearly visible on correspondence with city staff.

In another email obtained by the Investigator, Mike Lyster, Chief Communications Officer for the City of Anaheim, was contacted by Laura on August 21st about setting up a meeting with him on an unrelated matter. She signed off using the title “Senior Vice President.” Attached to it was the logo of the Anaheim Chamber.

Email-Cunningham Lyster

Despite the fact Laura has been Senior Vice President for several months now, the Anaheim Chamber has failed to update the staff directory on its website and list her as an employee. Her name, however, has begun to pop up elsewhere, such as on page 12 of the October issue of “Business Advocate,” their glossy newsletter.

Shilling for the Anaheim Chamber

But most curiously, Matthew Cunningham has said nary a word about Laura’s work with Anaheim First. Of course, to acknowledge this would tear to shreds the narrative he has woven about it being a “grass-roots community organization.” Since when do ordinary people recruit business executives to set up their neighborhood meetings?

Furthermore, his wife’s relationship with the Anaheim Chamber raises questions as to how the Anaheim Blog reports the news. For example, does the favorable coverage that Cunningham offers Anaheim First reflect his genuine love and affection for that group? Or is he really doing it because he wants to help his wife succeed at her job?

It should be noted that Cunningham is a political consultant. He runs a public relations firm called Pacific Strategies. On his LinkedIn page, a social media website for business professionals, he makes it no secret one of his “present past clients” has been the Anaheim Chamber. Even Ament himself has admitted this.

Cunningham has long since denied his blog is being paid for by the Anaheim Chamber. But does it really matter? Both he and his wife have received thousands of dollars of income from them over the years. Doesn’t that serve as a strong enough disincentive for him to post articles on his blog that they might not like? 

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