Anaheim City Council to Consider Corruption Investigation, Campaign Finance Reform

Anaheim City Council to Consider Corruption Investigation, Campaign Finance Reform
Anaheim city councilors at Anaheim city hall on May 24, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Jill McLaughlin

ANAHEIM, Calif.—The Anaheim City Council is expected to consider June 7 directing staff to recommend an independent investigation into alleged corruption as fallout from an FBI probe continues.

The council may also consider adopting campaign finance reform measures that would require council members and mayors to abstain from voting on issues that could benefit campaign donors and political action committees, or PACs.

In advance of the meeting, city staff compiled a list of campaign contributions received by former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu, who resigned May 24 after a federal investigation, made public May 17, revealed his alleged participation in possible pay-to-play schemes during negotiations to sell Angels Stadium to the team’s owner.

 Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., on May 24, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., on May 24, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Sidhu has not been charged with a crime. His attorney Paul Meyer said a “fair and thorough investigation” would clear the mayor.

The FBI’s investigation and revelations about possible backdoor deals and requests for campaign donations in return for favors has shocked many residents and officials who have called for reform.

According to FBI Agent Brian Adkins, a self-described “cabal” of influential leaders, including former head of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce Todd Ament, controlled the city.

Ament has been charged with allegedly using $200,000 in chamber funds to help pay for a house in Big Bear.

The city is ready to move forward with an investigation, according to Anaheim Spokesman Mike Lyster.

“We expect to see some discussion on that Tuesday,” Lyster told The Epoch Times.

Councilman Jose Moreno called for the investigation at the council’s regular meeting last month.

“I proposed an independent investigation into council members to both clear any names, to exonerate, and to understand how expansive this web of corruption and/or unethical behavior truly is,” Moreno said.

“Our public, our young people, our honest business partners deserve this.”

Moreno also spearheaded the proposed campaign finance reform ordinance during the council’s May 24 meeting, saying the city must address the issue. He had previously presented a similar ordinance to the council in October 2019, but did not receive enough support from his colleagues.

“We must turn our focus to address a much larger systemic issue, the corrosive effects of money that for too long has pervaded our city’s elections and skewed the investments in our city and shielded the [Angels] owners from scrutiny,” Moreno said.

New campaign finance rules under consideration are modeled after the state’s “Levine Act”—according to the city—which would preclude councilors and the mayor from voting on any issue for 12 months that would benefit contributors who have donated $250 or more to their campaigns.

Councilors would also be prohibited from making, participating in or attempting to use their position to influence decisions impacting or involving a campaign contributor.

The new rules would also prohibit councilors from accepting, soliciting, or receiving any funds from the campaign contributor for 12 months following a decision made by the council.

Also, the rules would apply to any campaign contributor who gives more than $250 to an independent committee advocating for the election of a councilor or mayor.

Under the proposal, the public could challenge actions taken in violation of the new requirements.

Councilors would not have to recuse themselves from voting on lowest-bid contracts, labor, or personal employment contracts regardless of any campaign contributions received. However, they would have to disclose if they had received funds of more than $250 from a participant in such contract.

Councilors would also be prohibited from seeking contributions to pay-off outstanding campaign debt for one year following a general election. Additionally, under the new rules, candidates must retire all campaign related debts six months after an election.

Former Orange County Supervisor and state Sen. John Moorlach told The Epoch Times introducing changes to the city’s campaign finance rules could be an overreaction.

“The first reaction is that there is always an ambulance chaser,” Moorlach said.

However, something has to be done to at least not give the appearance of impropriety, he said, “because the silliness, the money that’s floating around and being used inappropriately to buy a house in Big Bear, that has to be remedied,” Moorlach said.

Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.