BREAKING: Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu Resigns
Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu resigned on Monday amid a widening corruption scandal involving the $320-million sale of Angel Stadium. As CaliforniaCityNews reported previously, Sidhu is accused of trying to ram the sale through in the hopes of getting a major campaign donation. Specifically, the FBI has accused Sidhu of sharing confidential information with the Angels during negotiations over the stadium sale and soliciting a $1 million bribe. He is also accused of trying to thwart an investigation into the matter. Sidhu has denied the allegations.
The latest details contained in an FBI criminal complaint suggest the scandal runs much deeper than Sidhu and Angel Stadium, however. It tells a story about the corrupting influence of corporations over the City of Anaheim and a political elite who use city policies to further their own personal and economic interests.
FBI wiretaps suggest that the City of Anaheim has been run by a corrupt “cabal” of business leaders and political consultants who hand-pick City Council members to do their bidding. The word “cabal” was actually used by Anaheim Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Ament, a powerful player in Anaheim city politics who is now facing criminal charges in the case.
The cabal is sometimes referred to as a “family” by members. It allegedly helps get politicians elected to the City Council. They’re then expected to return the favor by supporting certain policies.
Not every city leader is in on the scheme. In one conversation, the cabal debated the best time to invite a newly elected City Council member to their “retreat” and reveal “how the sausage is really made” in Anaheim. These retreats were also a chance for the ringleaders to direct city leaders on which policies to support or oppose, according to the criminal complaint. City Manager Jim Vanderpool has admitted he was at one of the retreats flagged by the FBI on December 2, 2020. Vanderpool has said the focus of the meeting was the coronavirus pandemic.
At least one wiretapped conversation with Ament and another political consultant who was part of the cabal involved Support Our Anaheim Resort Area (SOAR), Disney’s primary vehicle for campaign funding. Ament, who has served on SOAR’s advisory board, indicated that members of the cabal manipulated public polling for SOAR “to show the public and elected officials that their policies were supported, when, in fact, they may not have been.”
Neither Disney nor any of its employees have been publicly accused of wrongdoing, but there is still much to be uncovered in the case. Many of the figures in the complaint, including a mysterious and influential “company A” in Anaheim, have not been named. An employee of company A is described as the cabal’s “ringleader.”
The scandal is an “I told you so” moment for former Mayor Tom Tait, who tried for years to decouple Anaheim from special interests.
“I’m saddened, I guess, by getting a glimpse behind the scenes, seeing how it works behind the scenes, and sad for Anaheim. And concerned about Anaheim’s reputation. It’s got 350,000 people – hard-working, wonderful people – who deserve better,” Tait told Voice of OC.
“I also feel optimistic for the city. Because I think this whole thing will radically diminish the effect of big money on Anaheim politics and decisions.”
Prior to Sidhu's resignation Monday, the entire City Council had called on him to resign. Sidhu's attorney said the decision to step down was made in the interest of the city, as the scandal had become a "distraction."
This is a developing story. Follow CaliforniaCityNews for future updates. You can also read more about Sidhu's resignation at the Los Angeles Times.