State AG seeks to pause Angels Stadium deal amid corruption probe

Anaheim, CA - May 16: Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA, on Monday, May 16, 2022. Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu is under federal investigation in connection with the citys sale of Angel Stadium, according to information the city released Monday, May 16. An af

State officials Tuesday were asking an Orange County Superior Court judge to delay a settlement the state worked out with the city of Anaheim for the Angel Stadium redevelopment project, based on an ongoing FBI corruption probe of Mayor Harry Sidhu and others, including an Angels executive.

In an unusual move, the state attorney general filed the request in Orange County Superior Court with an affidavit for a search warrant filed by the FBI. The Attorney General's Office said it should postpone its own deal with the city after it became aware of the FBI corruption probe, which included two confidential informants with one wired to secretly record conversations with the mayor.

Sidhu's attorney, Paul Meyer, declined comment at this time.

"We are seriously concerned about new information we have received about this deal and are asking the court to pause its consideration of the stipulated judgment in light of this information," a spokesperson for the Attorney General's Office said.

Just a few weeks ago, the office trumpeted an agreement with Anaheim that resolved a dispute over affordable housing in the stadium deal. As part of the deal, Anaheim agreed to set aside about $123 million for affordable housing throughout the city, with $96 million dedicated to the creation of affordable housing within the next five years, and the rest going toward 466 apartments on site at the stadium for low-income residents.

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What had been in dispute was how much affordable housing should be created at the stadium site. City officials argued that affordable housing elsewhere in the city could be constructed faster than waiting on the Angel Stadium project to be completed. They said it could have taken up to 25 years to build affordable housing into the stadium deal because in part it would require parking structures as well.

State officials were pursuing a violation of the Surplus Land Act, which requires promotion of affordable housing on unused or underutilized public land in the state. But Anaheim officials argued it had a lease agreement with the Angels and that it did not violate the Surplus Land Act in the deal with the baseball team.

The agreement resolved the issue with the city not having to concede any violation of the Surplus Land Act.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Plans to sell Angel Stadium violates Surplus Land Act: Report

In the affidavit filed by FBI special agent Brian Adkins last week, Sidhu is accused of using an Arizona address that was not his so he could avoid paying $15,887.50 in California sales tax on a helicopter he bought. The FBI agent said Sidhu apparently also allegedly avoided paying sales taxes of $1,025 in Arizona.

The FBI also alleged in the affidavit for the search warrant for emails and cell phone records that Sidhu was illegally feeding insider information to Angels officials during the negotiations over the sale of the stadium property from the city to Angels owner Arte Moreno's company.

Sidhu used private emails and a cell phone to convey information and then delete it to conceal his actions, the affidavit alleges. The agent includes a transcript of some discussions the mayor allegedly had with a confidential informant, who agreed to cooperate with authorities.

Sidhu allegedly told the informant, who was wearing a wire, that he was going to push the Angels to start a political action committee and fund it with up to $1 million to help with the mayor's re-election once the stadium deal was pushed through.

"... if the Angels deal goes through, by the end of the year, then I'm gonna ask ah, (Angels Representative 1). Right?" Sidhu allegedly told the informant. "I'll just call (Angels Representative 1) up and say, "(Angels Representative 1), we need, we need at least half a million dollars of support for you to come with the IEs."

That was a reference to "independent expenditures," the agent said.

In another meeting with the informant he allegedly said:

"Because I, I've said, you gotta at least, minimum of a million dollars to come up with my election. They have to. And of course, you know, if Disney, I mean, if Angels (stadium sale) would conclude next year is approved hopefully, we'll push for them at least have a million dollars. You know, for (Angels Representative 1) to say `no' is bad ..."

The mayor was also accused of "coaching" the confidential informant to mislead an Orange County grand jury investigation of the stadium deal.

The agent also said he believes Sidhu may have tilted a key ruling from an Orange County Superior Court judge in a Brown Act violation lawsuit seeking to undo the stadium sale deal.

The affidavit said one of the people allegedly involved in the negotiations is a nationally known political consultant.

The mayor is also accused of telling the confidential informant to write down all of the questions asked by the Orange County grand jury right after he met with them.

"Because then, then we'll meet and at least you'll let me know what happened," Sidhu allegedly told the informant.

Sidhu's opponent for mayor, attorney Ashleigh Aitken, issued a statement saying, "I am saddened that what was previously perceived by many as incompetence appears to be conscious acts of fraud, greed and deception."

Aitken said the price negotiated by the mayor "was millions of dollars short of its actual value."