Anaheim Mayor Under FBI Investigation for Alleged 'Unlawful Conduct' in Angel Stadium Sale

Anaheim Mayor Under FBI Investigation for Alleged 'Unlawful Conduct' in Angel Stadium Sale
Mayor of Anaheim Harry Sidhu speaks at a broadcasted event in Anaheim, Calif., on Sept. 16, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Vanessa Serna

Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu is under investigation by the FBI following circulating allegations questioning the illegal sale of the Angel’s Stadium, according to a legal document released on May 16.

“SIDHU is engaged in an ongoing scheme to commit honest services fraud by sharing confidential information with representatives from the Los Angeles Angels Major League Baseball team (“the Angels”) regarding negotiations related to the City’s sale of Angel Stadium with the expectation of receiving a sizeable contribution to his reelection campaign from a prominent Angels representative,” FBI agent Brian Adkins speculated in a court filing (pdf).

The court documents, which included search warrants and telephone conversations between Sidhu and others regarding his alleged scheme, concluded that Sidhu shared confidential information regarding the sale and kept information from “an Orange County Grand Jury and an Orange County Superior Court Judge.”

Warrants to search Sidhu’s email and cell phone, and a hanger and helicopter he keeps at the Chino Airport were granted on May 12.

The FBI was able to dive into the investigation with the help of multiple individuals, including a member of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce.

Phone conversations and meetings between 2021 and 2022 recorded by an undercover person working with Sidhu showed that the mayor was seeking to ask an Angels Representative for campaign contributions of between $500,000 to $1 million dollars.

“I believe SIDHU illustrated his intent to solicit campaign contributions … from Angel Representative ... in exchange for performing official acts intended to finalize the stadium for the Angels,” Adkins wrote after investigating conversations.

The deal to sell the stadium to SRB Management—owned by Angels baseball team’s owner Arte Moreno—has been in question after it was sold for $320 million in December 2019 without negotiation with other companies.

Critics have accused Anaheim of illegally selling the stadium to Moreno’s company. City Councilman Jose Moreno and a local group filed a lawsuit in February 2020, which eventually failed, alleging that the city council violated the Brown Act—a state law that requires government affairs to be open to the public—by holding private meetings to discuss the sale.

 Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., on Sept. 16, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., on Sept. 16, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

In December 2021, Anaheim’s Department of Housing and Community Development accused the city of violating the Surplus Land Act, a law that requires public land put up for sale to be first made available for affordable housing developers to place a bid.

To settle the accusations that Anaheim failed to entertain bids before selling the 150-acre property among other zoning issues, the city agreed to allocate $96 million to build 1,000 units of off-site affordable housing throughout the city within five years—although city officials have been claiming the sale was lawful.

The court documents were released following State General Rob Bonta’s request for an Orange County Superior Court judge to halt the agreement to sell the stadium for 60 days as the investigation unfolds—following a dispute with the state regarding the city violating an affordable housing law during sale negotiations.

Bonta’s office became aware of the “unlawful” sale allegations on May 13 despite the investigation being conducted since 2019.

In the filing, Bonta said the sale and the “Stipulation for Entry of Judgement,” which is the $96-million affordable-housing settlement, might be both invalid.

“These allegations [against Sidhu] call into question not only the validity of the land sale but of the Stipulation for Entry of Judgement that is currently pending,” the court filing read.

In response to the investigation of its mayor, the city stated that it had been acting “in good faith” throughout the sale process and was not aware of the issues presented in the court documents.

“Throughout this process, Anaheim staff and the City Council have worked in good faith on a proposal that offered benefits for our community,” Anaheim City Manager Jim Vanderpool said in a statement on May 16. “What has been shared with us was unknown to the city administration before today, and what is being described falls outside of the city’s process on the stadium.”

As the investigation unravels, the city plans on waiting to see how the “process play[s] out” to “determine what this means for the stadium plan in the days ahead,” Anaheim spokesperson Mike Lyster said in a statement.