Archive for the tag “Anaheim Hills”

Anaheim Police Aren’t Investigating Candidate’s Bizarre Claims Blogger Made Death Threat, Vandalized Signs

Hari S. Lal, a candidate running for Anaheim City Council in District 6, has alleged that a blogger threatened to kill him.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

In a statement sent last month to The Anaheim Investigator by Hari S. Lal, a candidate running for Anaheim City Council in District 6, he alleged that Matt Cunningham, a political consultant who runs the Anaheim Observer, a right-wing news blog, not only made a “direct threat to my life,” but took responsibility for “hundreds” of his campaign signs “being destroyed, stolen, or having swastikas painted on them,” even causing his mailbox to be vandalized. “It is now a matter for the Anaheim Police,” he told us.

However, The Investigator has subsequently learned Lal has never bothered to report any of these purported criminal acts–some of which can be prosecuted as felonies under state law–to the Anaheim Police Department for further investigation. Additionally, the candidate has repeatedly ignored every request we have made asking that he provide us with evidence that some of these crimes actually occurred, such as show us photographs taken of those campaign signs he claimed were defaced by swastikas.

The whole brouhaha between Lal and Cunningham erupted on September 13th when the latter published an article which accurately reported the Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector’s website showed the candidate then-owed $146,337.93 in delinquent property taxes on his Anaheim Hills mansion. In response, Lal threatened to sue the blogger demanding he “immediately withdraw your false and misleading articles regarding myself with respect to the property tax in the amount of $140,000.”

Lal’s mansion in Anaheim Hills.

So far, no lawsuit has been filed. And an updated version of the article is still online. But in the statement Lal sent, he claims Cunningham “doxxed” him in the first one that was posted, revealing “personal details” about his life which “went far beyond” what is considered public record. “This appeared to be a malicious attempt to threaten my family and incite vandalism towards my property,” he told us. “It succeeded: my mailbox was spray painted that night. I hold Mr. Cunningham directly accountable for this.”

Furthermore, Lal also alleged the blogger threatened to kill him, and took credit for trashing his signs: “I was called on my personal cell phone that evening by a blocked number; the caller identified himself as ‘Cunningham, of course!’ He mocked me and–in a reference to hundreds of my campaign signs in Anaheim Hills being destroyed, stolen, or having swastikas painted on them–shouted: ‘We have flattened your signs and we will flatten you!’ This was a direct threat to my life! It is now a matter for the Anaheim Police.”

However, Lal never bothered to report any of these purported criminal acts to the Anaheim Police for further investigation. Sergeant Shane Carringer, public information officer for the department, told The Investigator via email on October 17th they have “confirmed there are no records showing Lal contacted APD.” And the candidate has repeatedly ignored our requests to provide us with evidence some of these crimes actually occurred, such as show us photographs taken of campaign signs defaced by swastikas.

Reacting to Lal’s allegations, Cunningham had this to say: “It is true I unpublished the article as a courtesy to Mr. Lal while I further investigated his claims and explanations, which turned out to be false. I then re-published an expanded version with additional information. The rest of his allegations about me are false–especially his absurd claim that I made a threatening phone call to him. I have never spoken to Hari Lal–I do not even have his cell phone number. All my communication with him was via e-mail.”

There are no records Lal contacted Anaheim Police.

And these aren’t the only bizarre claims Lal has made. In his statement, the candidate says the reason why he didn’t pay $146,337.93 in delinquent property taxes was because he applied for a “reassessment” under Proposition 60–which would enable him to transfer value from a previous home he owned to his current one. “For reasons unknown to me, the application was not granted, and the case was set aside to be adjudicated,” he told us. “This adjudication never occurred, due in part to COVID-19.”

But The Investigator filed a public records act request with the Orange County Assessor Department–the only agency through which Lal could apply for a “reassessment”–asking they release all “emails, letters, faxes, correspondence, petitions, and other documents, legal or otherwise, which deal with, address, and/or pertain to any attempts by Hari S. Lal, through various provisions of Proposition 60 or Proposition 90, to transfer the base year value of his last primary residence to the residence he currently owns.”

In reply, the Orange County Assessor sent a letter back stating the “assessor had no responsive records.” Joanne Kim, a quality assurance manager for the department, told The Investigator via phone and email last month that Lal never applied for any “reassessments” of his Anaheim Hills mansion under provisions of Proposition 60, Proposition 90, or Proposition 19. In fact, Kim said that they have no records the candidate had ever contacted them. “We don’t have anything from him,” she reiterated.

In his statement, Lal also claims that his “case is now pending appeal for a declaratory relief regarding my eligibility for Prop 60/90,” suggesting this issue is perhaps being litigated in court. But for some reason, the candidate–who himself is a lawyer by trade–wouldn’t tell The Investigator what venue he was pursuing this matter in, who the presiding judicial officer is, and when the next hearing date will be. He repeatedly ignored all of our requests to provide us with any information about it.

There are no records Lal contacted the Assessor.

During our month-long inquiry into this affair, The Investigator couldn’t find any proof that would support any of Lal’s claims. The fact the candidate himself was uncooperative and refused to provide us with evidence wasn’t especially helpful. Nevertheless, we did find one thing that he was being quite truthful about: somebody has been taking down his campaign signs in Anaheim Hills. And not only do we know the name of the “culprit,” but we also know the name of their employer.

In one of the public records act requests we filed with the City of Anaheim, a document was released to us by the Planning & Building Department which reported that a part-time clerk was dispatched to remove one of Lal’s campaign signs that had been illegally posted on city property near 8225 E. Santa Ana Canyon Road in Anaheim Hills. They apparently retrieved it sometime before noon on Tuesday, September 27th because by 11:50 a.m. the case file on this matter had been closed.

Below is the statement sent last month to The Anaheim Investigator by Hari S. Lal, a candidate running for Anaheim City Council in District 6.

Democratic Mayoral Candidate Says Campaign Ended Ties With Consultant Under FBI Scrutiny for Alleged Bribes

Ashleigh Aitken (left), Democratic candidate for Anaheim mayor, with Melahat Rafiei (right), owner of Progressive Solutions Consulting, in 2019.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

The Anaheim Investigator has discovered that a Form 460 filed by the “Aitken for Mayor 2022” campaign committee reported they made a $10,000 payment to Progressive Solutions Consulting, a firm owned by Melahat Rafiei, a Democratic Party operative who is at the center of a corruption scandal involving cannabis businesses and the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce.

The document in question, which was submitted to the City of Anaheim on January 31, 2022, lists on page 77 that Progressive Solutions Consulting received the cash sometime between July and December of last year. The code used to identify the purpose of the payment is “CNS,” meaning Rafiei was consulting Ashleigh Aitken on her bid to become Anaheim’s next mayor.

In response to several questions The Investigator posed to Aitken about her relationship with Rafiei, the mayoral candidate acknowledged her “campaign contracted with Progressive Solutions Consulting at the end of 2021,” but said “we terminated our relationship with the company in February when Melahat Rafiei informed us that she was the subject of an investigation.”

On Thursday, Rafiei admitted to the Voice of OC she was “CW1,” a cooperating witness mentioned in an affidavit the Federal Bureau of Investigation filed in federal court to support criminal charges against Todd Ament, former president and CEO of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. However, she has denied allegations she tried to bribe public officials in the City of Irvine.

Besides being a political consultant, Rafiei also happens to be the co-founder of WeCann, a company based near downtown Santa Ana that boasts itself as a “one-stop shop for cannabis entrepreneurs,” helping them with a wide array of issues ranging from “real estate acquisition and disposition, licensing fulfillment, business and investment consulting, and public advocacy.”

Furthermore, Rafiei, who is a resident of Anaheim Hills, not only is a member of the Cultural and Heritage Commission of the City of Anaheim, but was appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom in September 2021 to serve on the Board of Directors of the Orange County Fair Board in Costa Mesa, a deliberative body of which Aitken has also been a part of since 2012.

Newly Appointed Councilwoman Attended ‘Victory Party’ at Mayor’s Anaheim Hills Estate in 2018

Mayor Harry Sidhu (left) welcoming Gloria Ma’ae (right) to his “Victory Party” at his four-acre Anaheim Hills estate in December 2018.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

During the Tuesday, September 14th meeting of the Anaheim City Council, when Councilman Jose Moreno began raising objections to the “process” that body had chosen to select a replacement candidate for a councilman who had vacated his seat, hinting it was “preordained,” or rigged in favor of applicant Gloria Ma’ae, Mayor Harry Sidhu could barely contain his anger.

“Councilmember Moreno, I’m very much disappointed in you in bringing this up,” Sidhu said in a raised tone of voice. “It is one of the fairest process we’ve been through. We gave every applicant an opportunity to meet with the residents. We gave every opportunity for the residents to come out and speak, whether in favor, or whether in opposition of the candidates who applied.”

“It was given opportunity of the applicant to have one-to-one meet with the councilmembers,” he continued. “[T]he way it was done, was proper, giving everybody an opportunity to come and speak. I spoke, and I sat down with every applicant here …. [Y]ou’re trying to talk about unfair process is … in my opinion, is wrong. And this was a completely a transparent process…”

But when it comes to transparency, The Anaheim Investigator knows Sidhu has a less-than-stellar reputation. For example, when the mayor joined along with an unsuccessful scheme by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce to legalize cannabis businesses, he failed to disclose the fact his son is a high-paid consultant to the pot industry who was well-positioned to profit from it.

Likewise, at the September 14th council meeting, when Sidhu tried to rush through Ma’ae’s appointment with very little discussion or input, he said nothing about his close personal ties with her. Besides the fact Ma’ae is a known supporter of the mayor, she was a “special guest” at a “Victory Party” he held on his four-acre Anaheim Hills estate in December 2018.

Sidhu giving Ma’ae a hug.

The Investigator has roughly a dozen photographs of Ma’ae that were taken at the event. Besides the three we have published here, others show her mingling with then-Councilman Jordan Brandman and Lea Ament, the wife of Todd Ament, President and CEO of the Anaheim Chamber. In most photos, Ma’ae is seen with persons who would later be linked to Anaheim First.

Ma’ae chatting with Sidhu.

Despite what reservations The Investigator has about Moreno, he was correct: Ma’ae’s appointment was “preordained.” However, the “process” of selecting her really began in 2007 when she started participating in a “front group” called Support Our Anaheim Resort, run by a Newport Beach public relations expert hired by The Walt Disney Company and Anaheim Chamber.

Recently, “front groups” like SOAR, and now Anaheim First, have been one mechanism the resort elite has used to vet candidates for appointment to various boards, commissions and city council seats. The decision to put Ma’ae on the council was years in the making. That doesn’t mean Sidhu’s role should be discounted. But he’s just a cog in a much bigger political machine.

[Update: An earlier version of this post stated Gloria Ma’ae started participating in Support Our Anaheim Resort in 2011. That is incorrect. She began in 2007.]

‘Angry Confrontation’ With Former Commissioner Occurred at Event for Proposed Veterans Cemetery

Councilman Stephen Faessel said the “angry confrontation” between himself and Larry Larsen occurred at the event for the proposed veterans cemetery.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

In an email to The Anaheim Investigator, Councilman Stephen Faessel said the “angry confrontation” between himself and Larry Larsen occurred at the July 1st event for the proposed veterans cemetery in Anaheim Hills. “As an elected official, I welcome hearing from anyone,” he told The Investigator. “But Larry’s abusive language and hostile behavior crossed the line.”

“I did not call the police, nor ask anyone to call on my behalf,” Faessel said. “I was contacted by officers just as Larry Larsen was, and happily answered all their questions, as reflected in the police record.” The councilman did say, however, he informed the organizers of the July 4th parade about the incident, who reportedly passed this information on to police.

Below is his account of what transpired:

Larry Larsen stopped me when I arrived at a recent event for a proposed veterans cemetery in far east Anaheim on July 1st. He was yelling at me, clearly still angry about his removal from the Sister City Commission two months earlier.

As an elected official, I welcome hearing from anyone, but Larry’s abusive language and hostile behavior crossed the line. The veterans cemetery event was not the time or the place for an angry confrontation about his removal from a city commission, for comments that sadly speak for themselves.

As I disengaged from him and made my way over to the event, Larry yelled after me, ‘I’ll see you on the Fourth! I’ll see you on the Fourth!’ He was referring to the upcoming Fourth of July celebration where I would be riding in the parade.

A few hours later, Larry sent me an email addressed to myself and Councilmember Trevor O’Neil, full of hostile language and again promising he would see us on the Fourth of July to pick up where he left off. As a precaution, I gave a heads-up to the parade organizers. As the event’s first time back since the pandemic restrictions, I wanted to see the celebration go on without disruption from something that had nothing to do with gathering our community to honor our country.

I shared a reasonable concern in the best interest of seeing the event go on without incident, which I’m glad to say, was the case.

I did not call the police, nor ask anyone to call on my behalf. I was contacted by officers just as Larry Larsen was, and happily answered all their questions, as reflected in the police record.

I would have preferred that the matter be dropped, but the police felt it prudent to follow up with Mr. Larsen. As always, the Anaheim Police handled the matter professionally and carried out their duty with respect for all involved.

As The Investigator reported last week, Larsen, a longtime community activist who at times has been known to have a brash and acerbic demeanor, made an astonishing revelation at the July 13th meeting of the Anaheim City Council: he openly accused Faessel of sending cops to his private residence to investigate him for being a “terrorist.”

“July 2nd, between 8:30 and 9-o-clock at night, two Anaheim police officers knocked on my front door,” he said. “They were there on the behest of Mr. Faessel. And, in my words, they were there to investigate the possibility of me creating some kind of terrorist diversion or distraction on the July 4th parade,” which takes place in Anaheim Hills.

But The Investigator obtained a hardcopy of the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) log which tracked the activities of the policemen who visited Larsen’s home on the evening of July 2nd. And the information it contains clearly shows that it was Captain Eric Trapp of the Anaheim Police–not the councilman–who ordered the probe.

Captain Eric Trapp.

According to the log, Trapp first sent two officers to Faessel’s house to investigate a possible PC 422–a criminal threat. But the officers quickly ruled that out. Their inquiry shifted toward a “disturbance” on July 1st where Larsen, angry over his removal from the Sister City Commission, confronted Faessel, his wife, and an aide about it.

Though there are no remarks on the log about what was discussed when these policemen later dropped by Larsen’s residence, it should be noted he was not arrested. In fact, the document hints the investigation was “cleared,” strongly suggesting this case was closed and no criminal charges would be forthcoming.

For matter of record, The Investigator did make an earlier attempt to contact Larsen. We were especially interested in getting his side of the story with respect to the “angry confrontation” he had with the councilman. But he never bothered to respond to any of the messages we left on his home and personal phones.

Police Dispatch Log Shows Councilman Did Not Send Cops to Home of Former Commissioner

Larry Larsen, a former member of the Sister City Commission, is shown here speaking at a political rally in front of Anaheim City Hall in 2012.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

At the July 13th meeting of the Anaheim City Council, Larry Larsen, a longtime community activist who at times has been known to have a brash and acerbic demeanor, made an astonishing revelation: he openly accused Councilman Stephen Faessel of using the power of his office to send cops to his private residence to investigate him for being a “terrorist.”

“July 2nd, between 8:30 and 9-o-clock at night, two Anaheim police officers knocked on my front door,” Larsen said. “They were there on the behest of Mr. Faessel. And, in my words, they were there to investigate the possibility of me creating some kind of terrorist diversion or distraction on the July 4th parade,” which takes place in Anaheim Hills.

“Is this what this city has come to, some kind of a fascist city where each city councilman can use the police to carry out their wishes and demands?” he continued. “I demand that there be an investigation … on the false charges …. I also demand that Mr. Faessel be suspended immediately from the city council until the results … are reported.”

But The Anaheim Investigator has obtained a hardcopy of the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) log which tracked the activities of the policemen who visited Larsen’s home on the evening of July 2nd. And the information it contains shows that it was Command Staff of the Anaheim Police Department–not the councilman–who ordered the investigation.

Sgt. Shane Carringer, public information officer for Anaheim Police, told The Investigator that though he didn’t know who Command Staff initially spoke with regarding this matter, he confirmed it was Capt. Eric Trapp who instructed Sgt. Bryan Janocha to make the call to enter it into their CAD system. Indeed, the latter officer is listed as being the “complainant.”

Capt. Trapp orders an investigation.

According to the log, Anaheim Police first sent two officers to Faessel’s house to investigate a “poss 422”–a criminal threat. But that was quickly ruled out. Their inquiry soon shifted toward a “disturbance” on July 1st where Larsen, angry over his removal from the Sister City Commission, allegedly confronted Faessel, his wife, and an aide about it.

During the alleged confrontation, Larsen made statements which not only caused Faessel’s aide to become “upset/scared,” but raised concerns he “may do something at the parade.” “Wait until Sunday,” he reportedly warned. The councilman told police he was “not desirous of prosecution,” but wanted the incident “documented” just in case Larsen “tried to do anything.”

Despite the fact there are no remarks on the log about what was said when these officers later dropped by Larsen’s residence, it does show them preparing for a visit: they conducted a routine criminal background check roughly 32 minutes before they knocked on his door. “Can you run his RAP and see if he has weapons registered to him?” one policeman asked dispatch.

It should be noted this log does not reflect the full story of what transpired. But what information it has undermines Larsen’s claim cops were sent to his home “on the behest of Mr. Faessel.” Furthermore, if he angrily made comments hinting to the councilman about something happening at the July 4th parade, police may have had a legitimate reason to question him.

For matter of record, The Investigator made an attempt to contact Larsen seeking his comments for this article. We were especially interested in getting his side of the story with respect to the alleged confrontation he had with Faessel, his wife, and an aide on July 1st. However, he never responded to any of the messages we left on his home and personal phones.

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.

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