Grand Jury: Anaheim’s Stadium Deal Rushed, Lacked Transparency

By Jill McLaughlin
Jill McLaughlin
Jill McLaughlin
June 28, 2022 Updated: June 29, 2022

ANAHEIM, Calif.—A grand jury report found the city’s handing of the $320 million Angel Stadium deal was rushed, lacked transparency, and betrayed constituents.

“The City Council majority’s inappropriate handling of the Stadium Property transactions betrayed its constituents,” the Orange County Grand Jury said in the report (pdf) released on June 27.

Beyond that, the FBI alleged in a court filing that at least two people tried to hide records from the grand jury and allegedly engaged in witness tampering regarding the investigation into the city’s stadium sale, according to the report.

The city said it would use the grand jury’s findings to develop a new public process.

“We appreciate the grand jury’s review,” the city said in a statement. “With recent events and new information brought to light, those issues now are being thoroughly discussed as part of a new, extensive public process for our city.”

Anaheim’s city council voided the sale of Angel Stadium in May after the FBI released an affidavit, written by Agent Brian C. Adkins, that described alleged corruption by then-Mayor Harry Sidhu during the sale to team owner Arte Moreno’s development company SRB Management.

Sidhu has not been criminally charged or indicted.

The grand jury found several problems with the way the city council handled the stadium sale, according to the report.

“The city’s lack of transparency and rushed decisions regarding the lease and sale agreements contributed to the public’s distrust of the City Council majority,” the report said.

When heated council discussions came up about the stadium property transactions, the council majority changed its own rules, requiring three council members to support placing an item on an agenda. By doing this, they intentionally precluded other council members from placing items on the agenda for discussion, according to the report.

The grand jury also found the city council made uninformed decisions after failing to timely disseminate critical information and documents to its members.

The city was cited in December by the state’s Housing and Community Development Department, which issued Anaheim a violation for reportedly not meeting California’s Surplus Land Act. The law requires public entities to first offer surplus land to affordable housing developers before selling it.

Anaheim began negotiating with SRB Management to sell the 153-acre stadium property. The two parties reached an agreement in December 2019 but that was postponed during legal wrangling over the violation.

The city settled with the state in April, agreeing to place $96 million into a local housing trust fund for the construction of new affordable housing, and allocate $27 million for affordable housing units at the stadium site.

The grand jury performed the city after a public outcry over the FBI investigation. The city was also sued by a local concerned-citizens homeless advocacy group for allegedly conducting closed council meetings in possible violation of the Brown Act open meetings law.

The grand jury contends that the city council “failed to uphold the spirit of the Brown Act during significant decisions relating to the lease and/or sale of the Stadium Property.”

The city council held a special meeting at an earlier-than-usual time on Dec. 20, 2019, to approve the sale, according to the jury.

The People’s Homeless Task Force Orange County filed a lawsuit, which was thrown out, alleging the city council took action to approve the sale in closed session and limited public participation in other meetings. The task force also claimed the city held multiple meetings of the sale negotiating team in violation of the Brown Act.

The advocacy group filed an appeal to the ruling in May, which remains pending.

The grand jury recommended that a future sale of the stadium property could “benefit the city” by incorporating affordable housing for minimum-wage earners.

The jury also recommended the city council implement a minimum 30-day period for the public and city leaders to discuss sales or leases of public land in the future.