Archive for the tag “California Secretary of State”

Santa Ana-Based Advertising Firm Hidden Force Behind Chamber-Backed Group Anaheim First

Tony Serna, Vice-President of Agency 51, a Santa Ana advertising firm that has been a hidden force behind Anaheim First.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

Much has been written about Anaheim First, the faux grassroots organization which, according to legal documents filed with the California Secretary of State in 2019, is controlled by Todd Ament, President and CEO of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. But very little, if anything, has been said about another entity that has been a hidden force behind it.

If you have ever seen Anaheim First’s full page ads in a newspaper, a slick mailer inviting you to attend one of their town hall forums, or observed members wearing those proverbial blue shirts, you saw the handiwork of Agency 51, an advertising firm located in downtown Santa Ana, literally a block away from the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and Courthouse.

Contrary to what is publicly known, Anaheim First made its debut, at least unofficially, on August 3, 2017 when Tony Serna, Vice-President of Agency 51, registered the domain “AnaheimFirst.com” using his name and his firm’s Santa Ana business address, email, and phone number. Records show this domain was later transferred to Visit Anaheim in 2018.

Message posted to Agency 51’s Facebook page.

But Serna does more than just run Agency 51. Not only was he a founding member of the Anaheim First Advisory Council in District 6, but he sits on the Board of Directors of the Anaheim Chamber. According to IRS Form 990 filings compiled by ProPublica, a non-partisan investigative journalism website, Serna has served on the latter body at least since 2013.

On its LinkedIn page, Agency 51 describes itself as a “full-service integrated marketing communications agency with offices in Orange County, CA, specializing in implementing complex, strategic advertising programs.” Founded as a partnership in 2001, it has two offices nationwide: one in Santa Ana and another in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Anaheim First is not the only major project Agency 51 has been involved with. It has an impressive list of past and present clients, including Comcast, Cox Communications, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, House of Blues Anaheim, and the Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center. Furthermore, the firm has done some work for the Anaheim Family YMCA.

Agency 51 boasting about Anaheim First on its website.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Anaheim First was reinvented as a marketing tool to help local restaurants, microbreweries, wine bars, and other businesses survive the economic downturn. For months, residents have seen ads on social media sites, much like the one on Agency 51’s YouTube page, offering discounts for food, drink, and other items.

However, as more people get vaccinated and life returns back to “normal,” it will undoubtedly revert to its original form. At the March 23rd meeting of the Anaheim City Council, Mayor Harry Sidhu reaffirmed his commitment to the Chamber-backed group. He is up for re-election next year. Given Anaheim First is stacked with his allies, he’ll need all the support he can get.

Anaheim City Council Push to Legalize Cannabis Businesses Could Make Mayor’s Son a Wealthy Man

Rohan Sidhu (left) stands next to his father, Harry Sidhu, the night he was sworn in as mayor of Anaheim in December 2018.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

It almost didn’t happen, but at the end of the April 21st meeting of the Anaheim City Council, just as Mayor Harry Sidhu was making his final closing remarks, Councilwoman Lucille Kring abruptly interrupted him.

“Mis… Mister Mayor, first of all, I forgot to do an agenda item,” Kring interjected.

“O.K., Councilmember Kring. Go ahead,” Sidhu replied, sounding a bit exasperated.

“Really, really, really, really fast,” said Kring.

Then she continued:

Colleagues and members of the public as you may recall a few months ago I asked the staff to work with me to prepare an ordinance for our consideration to legalize cannabis businesses in Anaheim consistent with state law and in the alternative to bring to us a resolution to place the question of cannabis businesses before the voters in November. The work on that project has been slowed down somewhat because of the Coronavirus, but we are back up and running. If I would ask staff to finish up that work on the ordinance and bring it back to us at the next council meeting May the 5th, the ordinance can be reviewed and discussed by the council, and we may choose to adopt it. We may also decide that it is better to let the voters weigh in on this issue. So if the ordinance is not adopted on May 5th, then I’d like it to be ready to bring back on May 12th to put it on the November ballot. Either way, we’ll also need to place a ballot of a local cannabis tax measure so we can do that at a later date….

“I’m asking for a second and a third on my cannabis ordinance, ” Kring stated.

Councilman Jordan Brandman seconded her motion.

“I will do the third, not a problem Councilwoman. I will do the third. So it is agendized,” replied Sidhu.

Up until this moment, nobody has really known exactly what Mayor Sidhu’s opinions have been on the issue of cannabis. But for quite some time now, The Anaheim Investigator has been well aware of what Rohan Sidhu, his 23-year old son, thinks about it. In fact, if the City of Anaheim decides to legalize cannabis businesses, he is well-positioned to get rich from it.

The Mayor’s Son is a ‘Pot Entrepreneur’

Evidence The Investigator has uncovered shows that Mayor Sidhu’s son is a “pot entrepreneur.” Not only does Rohan run a firm that offers “design and operational consulting for the legal cannabis industry,” helping secure licenses for cannabis businesses across the state, but he boasts that he helped set up “OC’s largest Type 6 cannabis oil Extraction and Distillation facility” in 2018.

According to a document Rohan filed with the California Secretary of State on August 6, 2018, he states he is “Chief Executive Officer” of an entity called RSSC LLC, a limited liability company. He describes the type of “business or services” being offered as “Engineering Consulting.” The listed address, however, appears to be a private mail box located at a U.S. Post Office in downtown Los Angeles.

But the information posted on Rohan’s LinkedIn page is more revealing. He states that RSSC LLC was founded in January 2018–not August 2018–as was suggested in the document he filed with the Secretary of State. But to his credit, he goes into detail about what kind of “work” his firm really does: it helps cannabis businesses get their licenses and permits to operate legally.

Below is a reproduction of what Rohan typed:

Founder
RSSC LLC * Full-time
Jan 2018 – Present * 2 yrs 4 mos
Orange County, California Area

Design and Operational consulting for the legal Cannabis industry.
With our team of engineers, architects, attorneys, policy consultants, and designers we can make your cannabis industry dreams come true.

Our team is responsible for securing over 25 MCSB/BCC state issued cannabis licenses, across the state of California.

We can help guide you through State and City licensing processes and procedures for the Cannabis Industry.

We have over 15 client facilities currently operating compliantly, through the state.

We have expertise in Type 6, Type 7, Type N Cultivation Facilities, Distribution/Transportation, Retail, and Testing Lab design/management/compliance.

Consider us your allies through the states venture into legalization, and legislation. We can help interpret CA’s new laws, so you can operate your facilities without worry.

But that’s not all.

Between January and May 2018, Rohan also mentions he was “Co-Founder” of yet another entity called SW Ventures LLC.

Here is what he wrote:

Co-Founder – CTO
SW Ventures LLC * Full-time
Jan 2018 – May 2018 * 5 mos

Costa Mesa

Conception and design of OC’s largest Type 6 cannabis oil Extraction and Distillation facility. Developed a successful CUP application, with supplementary documents, for Costa Mesa City, approved by Planning Commission and City Council with 0 comments/concerns.

Indeed, documents from the Costa Mesa Planning Commission, including one report dated October 15, 2018, make it clear that SW Ventures LLC was seeking

a Conditional Use Permit for a marijuana manufacturing and distribution facility (SW Ventures, LLC) within a 7,178-square-foot tenant space of an existing industrial building. The proposed facility will include ethanol cannabis extraction, distillation, packaging and formulation and distribution of the final product in vaping pens, tablets/capsules, and edibles. Rooms include extraction and distillation, storage and packaging, and ancillary offices. Vehicles used for the distribution of cannabis products will be pulled into a secured area inside the building. The facility will have security systems (card readers, security cameras, etc.) throughout the facility. No cultivation of marijuana, or marijuana dispensary, is permitted.

With respect to Rohan’s ties to this firm, The Investigator couldn’t find his name on any incorporation documents that were submitted to the Secretary of State. However, a Form 460 that was filed with the City of Costa Mesa shows he gave a $249 to the “Figueredo-Wilson for City Council 2018” candidates committee on September 15, 2018. He listed SW Ventures LLC as being his “employer.”

Mayor’s Son Could Become a Wealthy Man

If the city decides to legalize cannabis businesses, Rohan could become a wealthy man. For one thing, “pot entrepreneurs” would flock here to set up operations. They would need a consultant like RSSC LLC to help them navigate the complex legal environment. MedicalJane.com reports firms like his “have been known to charge over $100,000” for their services, even take ownership stakes in cannabis businesses.

Given Anaheim’s historically low electricity rates, easy access to freeways, and large market of consumers–which also includes millions of tourists–it is not inconceivable it could become the “weed capital” of Orange County. Regardless, Mayor Sidhu’s son is well-positioned to get rich from it. And any vote his father makes in favor of legalization of cannabis businesses is a vote to make that possible.

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