ANAHEIM, Calif.—A contentious debate broke out at the Anaheim City Council meeting on Feb. 1 following allegations that city officials violated state law by discussing the sale of the Angel Stadium in private.
The argument stemmed after Councilman Jose Moreno and former City Manager Chris Zapata provided declarations in support of a lawsuit filed by the People’s Homeless Taskforce against the city last month.
The lawsuit accuses city officials of deciding during a closed session to sell the stadium to the owner of the Angels Baseball team in August 2019, months before the proposal was brought to the public—violating the Brown Act, which requires government affairs to be open to the public.
Mayor Harry Sidhu spoke out against the accusations on Tuesday, calling Moreno’s declaration “embarrassing to the city.”
“It was misinformation,” Sidhu said. “You have violated our closed session agenda item that was there to discuss and you have never got the authority from the council to have discuss[ions] with anybody outside the council.”
Sidhu also cited the December 2019 city council meeting when Moreno “validated the process” of selling the stadium, as he was also present during the meeting. However, at the time, Moreno claims he did not know the Brown Act was being violated.
In December 2019, the city approved the sale of the 150-acre stadium site to Arte Moreno’s business, SRB Management, for $320 million, which will be paid in installments over the next four years with a fixed interest rate of 2.35 percent.
The agreement was approved by the city council by a 4–2 vote, with Moreno and former Councilwoman Denise Barnes dissenting.
While Sidhu claims the allegations by Moreno are false, the city of Anaheim did not disclose if any legal action would be taken to dispute the claims made.
“We do believe there was misinformation, and we reject the allegation that a sale was done in closed session,” Anaheim spokesman Mike Lyster told The Epoch Times. “We still have a process to go through in court and that’s what we are focused on at the moment.”
Sidhu’s comments follow a Jan. 27 statement by the city to “set the record straight” regarding the sale of the allegations behind the Angel Stadium sale lawsuit.
The city’s statement asks a Superior Court judge to rule in the city’s favor in the lawsuit, arguing the legal challenge is “entirely specious,” or misleading, “relying on speculation, misstatements of the evidence, deliberate omission of contrary evidence, and unsupported legal theories.”
Moreno responded to the news release at the Tuesday meeting standing by his testimony of the city’s decision to sell the stadium behind closed doors.
“It’s disappointing that our public information office is being used to politicize and to basically say that a council member is not being truthful,” Moreno said while citing his declaration about what occurred in August 2019.
To promote transparency, Moreno advised closed session topics to be listed on the agenda for public awareness.
However, City Attorney Robert Fabela insisted the request was not necessary to be agenized.
The city is set to appear in court to address allegations on Feb. 14.