Archive for the tag “City of Anaheim”

Did Councilman Try to File False Form to Hide Fact He Gave Tickets to Wife of Santa Ana Police Union President?

Gerry Serrano (left), President of the Santa Ana Police Officers Association, with Serina (right), his wife, at an event in Newport Beach in 2017.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

In 2019, when Gabriel San Roman, a former investigative journalist for the defunct-OC Weekly, reviewed more than 1,539 ticket disclosure formsForm 802s as they are called—to see who received the thousands of dollars worth of tickets the city got each year from Angel Stadium and Honda Center, he noticed an unusual practice: some council members were trying to avoid publicly disclosing the identity of persons they were really giving tickets to by reporting that they gave them to their spouse instead.

For example, San Roman discovered that then-Councilman Jordan Brandman had given city-owned tickets valued at $900 to Carrie Nocella, a lobbyist for The Walt Disney Company. But on the Form 802 that was filed, he stated those tickets were meant for Tom Nocella, her husband. Brandman had a ready-made excuse. “Tom is a longtime Anaheim resident,” he said. “Like all other council members, I regularly recognize numerous residents, community groups and city employees by behesting them tickets …”

Unfortunately for Brandman, that same rationale can’t be used to explain why, according to two Form 802s filed earlier this year, he handed out $1,230 worth of Angels tickets to Suzanne Bilodeau. Besides the fact Suzanne has lived in Orange for almost thirty years, her husband is Denis Bilodeau, a close friend of Brandman’s. Both served together on the Board of Directors of the Orange County Water District for several years before the latter resigned from his seat on the Anaheim City Council in August.

Likewise, when The Anaheim Investigator learned that Councilman Avelino Valencia III gave two Angels tickets valued at $410 to Serina Serrano, a resident of Garden Grove, we looked at who her spouse is to fully understand the reason why she got them. Serina is married to Gerry Serrano, president of the Santa Ana Police Officers Association. As we have previously reported, both Gerry and his union made $2,850 in campaign contributions to the “Valencia for City Council 2020” committee last year.

But documents The Investigator obtained under the California Public Records Act show Valencia may have tried to go further than this. An earlier Form 802 the councilman submitted offers prima facie evidence suggesting he made an attempt to hide Serina’s identity from public disclosure by using Serina Porras, her maiden name, instead of Serina Serrano, her married (and legal) one. If this form had been officially filed with the city under her maiden name, it would have been much harder to link her to Gerry.

Screenshot of the withdrawn Form 802 with Serina’s maiden name.

However, Valencia eventually had to withdraw that Form 802 and replace it with a new one which used her legal name. Why? When Serina had a problem downloading Angels tickets to a wallet on her smartphone, she questioned city staff about emails being sent which made reference to her maiden name. “Why is it addressed Serina Porras?” she asked Luiz Torres, a city council assistant who works for Valencia. “I haven’t used that last name in over 23 years. So it doesn’t reflect on any of my ID’s.”

Serina asking why her maiden name is being used.

In a followup message, Torres told Serina that he got this information directly from the councilman. “I was unaware that we had your old name filed,” he typed. But in a stunning admission, he acknowledged to Serina he knew what her legal name was: “Frankly, I used Serina Serrano for this email thread because that was your apparent name based on your email address.” Indeed, The Investigator has an unredacted copy of her personal email address and can confirm he was using it to communicate with her.

Though Torres would later claim Valencia was “unaware of the name change,” all of this begs the question of how he knew Serina’s maiden name was Porras? Furthermore, the councilman himself most likely provided his city council assistant with her personal email address. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume since that email has Serrano as her last name, that’s how she identifies herself? Perhaps it should be noted she uses it as a last name on all of her identifiable social media accounts as well.

Under California state law, there are criminal statutes—specifically Penal Code 115—which make it a crime to file a false Form 802 with a government agency. For example, if a person knowingly files a document that contains inaccurate information, they could face a felony charge. However, a document has to have been officially filed with an agency before a prosecution can take place. That didn’t happen in this situation. The Form 802 in question was withdrawn and quickly replaced with a corrected version.

Regardless of what Valencia was trying to do, he definitely had a motive to conceal his ties to Gerry Serrano. Not only has the latter been a controversial and divisive figure in Santa Ana politics, but he has been subject of multiple investigations into alleged misconduct by local, state, and federal authorities–including reportedly being the target of a grand jury probe. The councilman’s squeaky-clean image would undoubtedly be tarnished if he was caught handing out tickets to such a troubled individual.

For matter of record, The Investigator emailed Valencia approximately three times requesting comment for this article. We wanted to know the reason why he felt motivated to use Serina’s maiden name on the original Form 802 he submitted, then later withdrew due to her questioning why it was being used. We were hoping that his reply would put our concerns about this matter to rest. But so far, the dapper councilman from District 4 hasn’t bothered responding to any of the messages we sent him.

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.]

Uncle of Councilman’s Wife, Who Donated $200 to His Campaign, Got City-Owned Tickets Worth $410

Alex Ruiz (center) celebrating the marriage of Monica Munguia (left), his niece, to Avelino Valencia III (right), at their wedding in 2019.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

In a careful re-examination of all Form 802s that Councilman Avelino Valencia III filed in the months of April and May, The Anaheim Investigator has discovered a local businessman he gave city-owned baseball tickets to is also an uncle of his wife, making him legally his nephew.

In June, The Investigator reported that Alex Ruiz, owner of Alex’s Flooring Company, received two tickets from Valencia valued at $410 for an Angels vs. Indians game on May 19th. Furthermore, campaign finance records also show Ruiz had contributed $200 to his city council race in 2020.

A Form 802 Valencia filed shows he gave tickets to Ruiz.

But at that time, we didn’t know Ruiz was a relative of Valencia. Our latest investigation into who the councilman has been handing out tickets to was spurred, ironically, by an unusual email we obtained from the City of Anaheim through a routine California Public Records Act request.

In that email, Luiz Torres, a city council assistant, warned Valencia The Investigator was “looking into each and every council members” ticket filings. As a result of this message, we decided all the persons he named on his Form 802s deserved a second look to see if we missed anything. And we did.

Much of the new evidence comes from social media. In a message Ruiz posted on Facebook in 2019, he tags Valencia and his wife. “Had the great pleasure of attending my beautiful niece Monica and Avelino [sic] wedding this weekend,” he typed. Also included: a photo of himself with the newlyweds.

In two messages Ruiz posted in 2020, he encouraged all of his friends to back Avelino’s effort to win a seat on the city council. “If you’re in the Anaheim area please support my nephew. A wonderful person and very committed to helping out the community,” he waxed enthusiastically.

On May 19th of this year, he posted photos and videos of himself attending the Angels vs. Indians game. In one 46-second video Ruiz shot with his phone, he parades around the luxury suite his nephew’s tickets gave him access to, showing off the amenities. “Check out where I’m at,” he boasts.

Our discovery that Valencia gave tickets to his uncle adds a new twist to this story. Up until now, the councilman has been able to skirt around the rules and hand them out to close personal friends, campaign backers, and Democratic Party operatives without facing any repercussions.

But these tickets are public assets. Valencia is a public official. There are rules, policies, and laws–everything from local administrative regulations to federal anti-corruption statutes–which not only forbid, but make it illegal for a politician to use the power of their office to benefit family members.

Though a more thorough investigation needs to be conducted into this matter by knowledgeable legal experts to determine if Valencia has crossed the line and violated any civil or criminal laws, it wouldn’t be premature for us to say that he has already done so at least when it comes to government ethics.

‘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.

Stadium Master Site Plan Revealed Name of ‘Study’ for Streetcar Project, but City Website Says Nothing

An image of a streetcar from a vendor presentation that was shown to Mayor Harry Sidhu’s Transit Options Task Force in December 2019.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

The Stadium Master Site Plan, a 13-page document filed last year with the City of Anaheim by SRB Management LLC, an entity controlled by Arte Moreno, the billionaire owner of the Angels baseball team, revealed the name of the “study” for the streetcar project that Mayor Harry Sidhu’s Transit Options Task Force has been working on since 2019.

The document in question, prepared by the IBI Group, a Canadian-based consultant that describes itself as a “global architecture, engineering, planning, and technology firm” involved in “defining the cities of tomorrow,” made a brief reference to it in the last paragraph on page 13, under the topic of “infrastructure improvements.”

It reads as follows:

Anaheim Connects – Street Car

The City of Anaheim is undergoing planning efforts as part of the Anaheim Connects study to transform transportation and transit solutions in the Platinum Triangle Planning Area. The study seeks to provide opportunities to public/private partnerships, improve pedestrian and bicycle connections along the Santa Ana River, and improve the East/West transit connections between ARTIC and the Anaheim Resort Area. As part of this East/West transit connection, the Applicant is aware the City is studying a Street Car alignment that would provide potential stop(s) within the Project Site. While the City has not made any decisions regarding the alignment, design or system to be employed, the Project can accommodate potential stops in the future, if needed.

The Anaheim Investigator has known for quite some time the streetcar project is part of Anaheim Connects. But the Stadium Master Site Plan is the first “official” document that has made this information public. The link to Anaheim Connects on the city’s website says nothing about streetcars and only talks about mass transit in terms of vague generalities.

The logo for Anaheim Connects

Nobody should be surprised SRB Management LLC was aware of this study. Representatives from the Angels have been active participants in Mayor Sidhu’s Transit Options Task Force since its inception. For example, records show that Brian Sanders, Senior Director of Ballpark Operations, attended one of their meetings in February 2020.

Furthermore, a new chain of emails recently obtained by The Investigator suggest city staff were eager to share updates about the streetcar project not only with the Angels, but with Jeff Flint, CEO of FSB Public Affairs. Quarterly reports filed with the Office of the City Clerk make it clear Flint is a registered lobbyist for SRB Management LLC.

For matter of record, a city official told The Investigator late last year nothing has been finalized as of yet. Indeed, we reported in early March that the City of Anaheim is also exploring the possibility of using an aerial gondola system instead of a network of streetcars to shuttle tourists between the Platinum Triangle and Anaheim Resort.

Regardless of what the case may be, there is circumstantial evidence that Anaheim Connects will still include a streetcar. At bare minimum, a line may be built that travels east and west along Katella Avenue, from ARTIC to Harbor Boulevard. However, the size and scope of any such project will ultimately be determined by the level of government funding.

‘Express Gondola Service’ Being Considered to Carry Tourists to Disney Theme Parks, Convention Center

The Disney Skyliner aerial gondola system at Walt Disney World in Florida connects EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and several large hotels.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

The City of Anaheim is considering an aerial gondola system that would carry tourists to Walt Disney theme parks and the Anaheim Convention Center, according to a copy of a seven-page document The Anaheim Investigator obtained through a California Public Records Act request. The document in question, entitled “Anaheim Resort Mobility Plan–Key Recommendations,” reflects a radical departure from what was previously reported: that the city was primarily focused on building a network of streetcar lines to connect the Platinum Triangle and Anaheim Resort.

Though this document mostly consists of mundane proposals to ease traffic congestion, it contains a startling revelation. On the first page, under the subheading “Transit,” one key recommendation is to create an “Express Gondola Service–two routes from ARTIC,” the city’s main bus and train terminal. The first route would “align with Disney Way and potentially connect to the proposed pedestrian bridge at Harbor/Disney,” a stop within walking distance of Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks. The second would “provide access to the convention center.”

A map that was included, entitled “Transit Recommendations Overview” and marked “DRAFT,” is also revealing. Not only does it offer a visual representation of where two routes of the proposed aerial gondola system would go, but it mentions “Planned Streetcar Stops” without showing where that line will be. But The Investigator believes, based on circumstantial evidence, that the streetcar is being referred to euphemistically as the “Potential At-Grade Transit Connection.” It would travel east and west along Katella Avenue, from ARTIC to Harbor Boulevard.

Map shows two routes of the proposed aerial gondola system.

Last month, The Investigator reported that it obtained about 1,000 pages of internal documents showing Mayor Harry Sidhu quietly resurrected the controversial Anaheim Rapid Connection streetcar project that was shelved by the previous mayor in 2017. In the dozens of emails, memos, invoices, meeting agendas, maps, and audiovisual presentations that were reviewed, most discussions focused on using streetcars to shuttle tourists and workers between the Platinum Triangle and Anaheim Resort. There was little talk about aerial gondola systems.

But cryptic references to it have popped up here and there. For example, at the March 5, 2019 “State of the City” address, when Mayor Sidhu announced he was setting up a Transit Options Task Force, he said the city should explore new transit technologies, pointing out that in Florida “Disney is testing gondola systems to connect hotels to theme parks.” Furthermore, internal emails show city staff has communicated with Fehr & Peers, a consulting firm that worked on a “feasibility study” for the Georgetown-Rossyln Gondola project in Washington, D.C.

The Georgetown-Rossyln Gondola project in Washington, D.C.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all discussions about transit options to connect the Platinum Triangle and Anaheim Resort either slowed down or were put on hold. Everything came to a standstill late last year when the U.S. Department of Transportation rejected a request by city staff for $2.379 million in BUILD grant program funds to pay for planning of a streetcar. Nevertheless, as more people get vaccinated and life returns to “normal,” this matter will soon come back to life. But for now, we know that streetcars aren’t the only things being planned for.

Internal Documents Show Mayor Quietly Resurrected Controversial Anaheim Streetcar Project

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is streetcar.jpg

A streetcar line currently being built in Tempe, Arizona was used as a “case study” for one that could travel along Katella Avenue.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

In 2019, while hundreds of local residents were fixated with the pending sale of the Anaheim Stadium to Arte Moreno, the billionaire owner of the Angels baseball team, roughly 1,000 pages of internal documents obtained by The Anaheim Investigator during a year-long investigation show Mayor Harry Sidhu quietly resurrected the controversial Anaheim Rapid Connection streetcar project that was shelved by the previous mayor in 2017.

The documents in question, all of which were obtained through multiple California Public Records Act requests, consists of dozens of emails, memos, invoices, meeting agendas, maps, and audiovisual presentations which detail a robust discussion about transit options to connect the Platinum Triangle with the Anaheim Resort, mostly emphasizing the use of streetcars to shuttle tourists and workers from one location to another.

The revival of this project was set into motion shortly after Mayor Sidhu announced at his “State of the City Address” in March 2019 he was setting up a Transit Options Task Force to explore various ways of linking the two areas together. At the time, a public statement was issued denying the mayor was bringing back plans for “a street car linking the Platinum Triangle and the resort.” though documents reviewed by The Investigator suggest otherwise.

Lobbyists called the mayor’s task force by a different name.

But before any work could begin, the city council needed to pass a resolution supporting a new “study of a transit connection between the Anaheim Resort and the Platinum Triangle” and rescind two previous ones that expressed “opposition to a street car system,” which was done at their June 4th meeting. Then in late September, city staff secured $350,000 in funding from the Anaheim Tourism Improvement District to pay for consultants.

Kittelson & Associates, Inc., the same firm that worked on the “previous version of the Anaheim Rapid Connection (ARC) project,” was retained as lead consultant. “The City is current [sic] revisiting the former ARC streetcar project,” wrote Tim Erney, one of their employees, in a December 2, 2019 email. “Based on conversations with City staff … trackless streetcar and battery-powered streetcar were identified as the options for further review.”

A slide from a presentation comparing buses and streetcars.

Between November 2019 and February 2020, Kittelson prepared several memos and audiovisual presentations for the Transit Options Task Force, closely coordinating their efforts with vendors like Alstom, BYD, Van Hool, and TIG/m–companies that are either involved in manufacturing streetcars, “battery-powered rail vehicles,” or offer “rubber-tire vehicles that may be comparable in appearance and functionality to [a] trackless streetcar.”

Despite the fact the COVID-19 pandemic seriously disrupted the ability of the City of Anaheim to operate, Mayor Sidhu’s Task Force set up “street car subcommittees” and met online at least until August. Furthermore, city staff submitted a BUILD Grant proposal to the U.S. Department of Transportation in May for $2.379 million in funds to pay for planning of a streetcar, a request that was ultimately rejected by the Trump administration.

One city official The Investigator spoke with regarding these matters said everything has been put on pause due to the coronavirus and nothing has been settled on as of yet. Indeed, recent documents suggest support has wavered for a streetcar system as elaborate as the ill-fated ARC project was. Nevertheless, there still seems to be backing for a line that would travel along Katella Avenue, from ARTIC to the Anaheim Resort.

Fair Political Practices Commission Says Mayor Can Participate in Vote to Legalize Cannabis Businesses

rohan-harish

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

Kevin Cornwall, Counsel for the Legal Division of the Fair Political Practices Commission, has notified City Attorney Robert Fabela that Mayor Harry Sidhu “may take part in the upcoming City Council decisions related to the regulation of cannabis distribution, manufacturing, cultivation, and retail sales” within the City of Anaheim because the “facts” show he currently does not “share his son’s economic interests.”

Cornwall’s opinion, including the legal rationale behind it, is contained within a three-page letter dated May 27th and was issued in response to a “Request for Formal Advice” Fabela sent to the commission twelve days earlier. Fabela wanted to know whether Mayor Sidhu’s adult son’s involvement in the cannabis industry precluded him from voting on related matters coming before the council at the June 9th meeting.

City Attorney Letter Re Sidhu 051520 p1

The text of Fabela’s missive is as follows:

As City Attorney for the City of Anaheim, I am seeking an immediate Formal Advice letter from the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) on behalf of Anaheim Mayor Harry S. Sidhu, P.E. This request concerns two related decisions that will be before the Anaheim City Council on June 9, 2020, involving the proposed regulation of cannabis distribution, manufacturing, and cultivation in the City of Anaheim. Cannabis is currently banned in the City of Anaheim for all purposes. Mayor Sidhu’s adult son provides consulting guidance in the cannabis industry in Orange County, California, and the Mayor wishes to take every precaution to confirm that no conflict of interest exists that prevents him from participating in these decisions.

The Mayor’s son, Rohan S. Sidhu, is 23 years old and lives at home in the Mayor’s house, which is located in the City of Anaheim. The Mayor claims Rohan as a dependent, pays for utilities, food, and other amenities for the entire household, including Rohan, and receives no rent or other payments in return. While Rohan has no immediate plans to move out of the house, he is contemplating such a move before the end of the year.

Rohan started a small business in 2018 to provide ‘engineering consulting’ to individuals and businesses working in the cannabis industry. In general, he provides guidance on starting and operating cannabis businesses, with a specialization in consulting on the process of obtaining state licenses issued by the Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch and Bureau of Cannabis Control, among other licensing agencies. He does not manufacture or distribute cannabis himself, nor does he profit directly from the manufacturing and distribution of cannabis by his consulting clients. Rohan also has no intent to provide any consulting guidance to cannabis businesses which may at any time be authorized to legally operate in the City of Anaheim.

Mayor Sidhu has never held any ownership interest in his son’s business. He has not invested in the business or made loans or gifts of money to his son that were used in the business.

The Anaheim City Council will soon face two decisions that could result in the regulation and taxation of cannabis manufacturing, distribution, cultivation and retail sales within the City. The first is an ordinance that would repeal existing Anaheim Municipal Code chapters banning cannabis use and adding chapters regulating cannabis distribution, manufacturing, cultivation and sales. The second is a City Council Resolution approving a ballot measure that would place a cannabis tax before the voters at the next general election, which requires a two-thirds vote of the City Council under the City’s Charter. If passed, the first item (the regulation ordinance) will only take effect if the voters actually approve a cannabis tax at the November 2020 general election.

Thus, Mayor Sidhu’s request is for immediate advice as to whether his relationship with his adult son, and particularly his provision of financial support to his son in the form of room, board and other amenities, creates a conflict of interest that prevents the Mayor from voting on an ordinance amending the Anaheim Municipal Code to allow regulation of cannabis, or a resolution adding a cannabis tax to the November 2020 ballot.

Because this matter will be on the Council’s June 9, 2020 agenda, we ask that you provide an advice letter before that date…

In the letter that Cornwall typed in response, he carefully reviewed the “facts” as Fabela laid them out, and then gave his opinion as to how the Political Reform Act (hereinafter referred to as the “Act“), the main state law that deals with issues pertaining to conflicts of interest among public officials, would be applied in Mayor Sidhu’s case.

FPPC Letter Re Sidhu 052720 p1

In his analysis, he wrote:

Under Section 87100 of the Act, ‘[n]o public official at any level of state or local government shall make, participate in making or in any way attempt to use his official position to influence a governmental decision in which he knows or has reason to know he has a financial interest.’ ‘A public official has a financial interest in a decision within the meaning of Section 87100 if it is reasonably foreseeable that the decision will have a material financial effect, distinguishable from its effect on the public generally, on the official, a member of his or her immediate family,’ or on certain specified economic interests. (Section 87103.) Among those economic interests is any source of income aggregating five hundred dollars ($500) or more in value provided or promised to, received by, the public official within 12 months prior to the time when the decision is made. (Section 87103(c).)

Section 82029 defines the term ‘immediate family’ to include an official’s ‘spouse and dependent children.’ The term ‘dependent children,’ in turn, is defined by Regulation 18229.1 to mean ‘a child… of a public official who is under 18 years old and whom the official is entitled to claim as a dependent on his or her federal tax return.’ Although Mayor Sidhu claims his son Rohan as a dependent for tax purposes, Rohan is over the age of 18 years old and, thus, is not considered a ‘dependent child’ or ‘immediate family’ for conflict of interest purposes under the Act. Additionally, given that Rohan has not made rent payments or similar payments to Mayor Sidhu, he also does not qualify as a source of Mayor Sidhu’s income.

Accordingly, the provided facts do not indicate that Mayor Sidhu has any economic interest implicated under the Act …

However, Cornwall stated that “in the future, if Rohan were to qualify as a source of income, such as by making rent payments, Mayor Sidhu would have an economic interest in him. In such a scenario, Mayor Sidhu would generally be prohibited under the Act from taking part in governmental decisions that would have a reasonable foreseeable, material financial effect on Rohan.”

Cornwall warned Fabela early on his advice “is limited to the provisions of the Act. We cannot provide any advice regarding other conflict interest provisions that may apply, including common law conflict of interest…” Furthermore, he added “any advice we provide assumes your facts are complete and accurate” and that if those “facts” change, “you should contact us for additional advice.”

Downloadable PDF copies of Fabela’s and Cornwall’s correspondence can be found by merely clicking here and here.

Anaheim Chamber of Commerce Behind Efforts to Legalize Cannabis Businesses Says Interim City Manager

Greg Garcia

Greg Garcia, Interim City Manager, speaks about the proposed ordinance to legalize cannabis businesses during a Zoom townhall forum.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

At a Zoom townhall forum that Dr. Jose Moreno, councilman for District 3, hosted on Monday, May 11th, Greg Garcia, the Interim City Manager, told the online audience that the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce was behind efforts to legalize cannabis businesses within the City of Anaheim.

Revelations about the Chamber’s role in this matter, which up until now has been kept hidden from the public, was brought to the forefront by questions The Anaheim Investigator posed to Garcia during the forum. The Investigator specifically wanted to know who helped craft the proposed cannabis ordinance.

“We did put together a team internally of city staff and we also utilized some consultants to help us with the drafting and looking into other jurisdictions and run an analysis for us,” Garcia replied.

But he further added:

Also, to go back to the beginning, I think a lot of this came about because of a local task force that was put together by the Chamber that worked with hoteliers and others and businesses in Anaheim that were afraid that cannabis was going to be thrust upon us by the industry and therefore I think they took the time to think about if we were to do it in an Anaheim way, how would we do it, and then they shared that information I guess with some council members, and with us, and then council then directed us to continue looking at that and figuring out the best way to do it, Anaheim way….

The video of the May 11th townhall forum, which lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes, is available on Councilman Moreno’s Facebook page and can be viewed here or in the link below:

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: