Anaheim Moves Ahead Without Mayor, OKs Investigation

By Jill McLaughlin
Jill McLaughlin
Jill McLaughlin
June 22, 2022 Updated: June 22, 2022

Anaheim will continue operating without a mayor after the city council elected not to appoint a new one at its regular meeting June 22.

Two candidates—former Mayor Tom Tait and realtor Paul Kott—were nominated by city councilors but failed to get enough council votes to be appointed. Each only received one vote.

As a result, the city will continue operating with Mayor Pro Tem Trevor O’Neil at the helm. O’Neil was tasked with leading meetings and other mayoral duties when former Mayor Harry Sidhu resigned last month after an FBI investigation alleged he was involved in a pay-to-play scheme as part of the negotiations to sell Angel Stadium.

Sidhu has not been charged or indicted.

This was the second attempt by the council to fill the open position. The council first considered it two weeks ago when Councilman Jose Moreno nominated himself but did not receive any support from other councilors.

The city’s charter requires the councilors to fill the vacancy within 60 days. If not filled within that time, the city would be required to hold a special election.

However, the general election to elect a new mayor is Nov. 8, which makes the timeline too tight to organize a special election, according to O’Neil.

Epoch Times Photo
Anaheim City Hall in Anaheim, Calif., on May 24, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

City leaders also continued to address corruption allegations revealed in the FBI probe by considering campaign finance reform and an independent investigation.

Councilors unanimously voted and approved a plan to hire an outside group to investigate and report on all campaign contributions given to current city councilors and former Mayor Sidhu. The investigation would also uncover any Brown Act, or open meeting, violations and any conflicts of interest with city contracts.

City staff estimated the investigation could cost between $250,000 and $500,000.

Some councilors were concerned that the results of the probe would not be available before the November election.

O’Neil said he would prefer to hire a company staff had recommended instead of going through a bidding process.

“We’re up against the clock and we run the risk of not even getting anything back until after the election,” O’Neil said. “The whole point of this is to make sure that there was no impropriety to ensure that everyone is either cleared or indicated prior to the election.”

Several residents attended the meeting to encourage the city council to be more transparent and address any misdeeds.

One resident, a woman who moved to California from Mexico for safety reasons, said she did not want to see the city become like her former hometown.

“Thirty years ago, I came from Mexico, and I came because in my hometown, there were a lot of girls disappearing,” the woman told city councilors. “I came to California, United States, because I want to feel safe and I want to have a better life.

“Right now, the things that are happening here in Anaheim, I feel like I’m living back in my hometown, where the [politicians] are taking advantage of all the situations to gain money to their own benefit,” she said.

The speaker said she supported a plan to strengthen campaign finance reform in the city. Moreno proposed the campaign finance reform ordinance to create more transparency and reduce the possibility of corruption, but it failed to pass on a tie vote.

“Its goal is to mitigate the undue influence of money in the decision-making in our city and provide as much trust as possible,” Moreno said.

The new rules, based roughly on the state’s Levine Act, would have required city councilors to abstain from voting on any issue that would affect any campaign donors for a period of six months. They would also have had to file reports with the city clerk’s office within 24 hours of receiving any contribution over $250.

The ordinance needed four votes to pass, but councilors were deadlocked on the issue, voting 3 to 3, with O’Neil, Councilwoman Gloria Ma’ae, and Councilman Jose Diaz voting against it.

Councilman Diaz said he supported transparency in campaign finance but the new rules would not stop money coming in from outside the city.

“I support transparency,” Diaz said. “All this does is bring in money from outside the city. The money’s going to be there, it’s just coming from someplace else.”

In other action, the council decided to change the way members can place items on future agendas. The new policy will allow councilors to request items be put on meeting agendas without having to get the support of other councilors.