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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Lawsuit accuses Anaheim officials of privately discussing the sale of Angel Stadium before notifying the public

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Anaheim officials are facing legal action after allegedly discussing the sale of the Angel baseball stadium with an Angels owner in private — before announcing their plans to the public.

City Council member Jose Moreno and former city manager Chris Zapata filed applications with the Orange County Superior Court after the Orange County People’s Task Force filed a lawsuit in 2020.

Moreno said the lawsuit accused the city of holding a closed-door meeting in August 2019 to discuss Angel Stadium owner Arte Moreno’s desire to buy the land instead of renting it.

Moreno said the lawsuit also notes a discrete meeting of the city council to agree on negotiations over the stadium’s ownership in September 2019.

Although Brown’s Law requires local government cases to be open to the public except under limited conditions, Moreno claimed he was unaware of the potential violation at the time.

“The council’s decision to sell to participate in these negotiations to sell our public land was made in September, but the public didn’t know until December when the offer to sell was put up,” Moreno told The Epoch Times.

Anaheim City Hall in Anaheim, California on August 26, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Moreno suggests that eight officials sit on the city council, including Mayor Harry Sidhu, and Sidhu did not consider the possibility of a potential violation of the Brown Act.

“His interest was in making a deal that was in the best interests of Arte Moreno and Angels baseball, and he is, in essence, the Anaheim donor class,” Moreno said.

Mayor Harry Sidhu did not respond to a request for comment on the violation of the Brown Act.

Following closed-door council discussions, the sale of the stadium was hastily finalized before December 31, 2019 due to Angel owner Arte Moreno wanting to secure a deal with the city to purchase the land by December 31, 2019. The deadline for canceling the lease is before the end of 2019, according to council member Moreno.

Angel baseball team owner Arte Moreno has not yet been available for comment.

While Councilman Moreno tried to convince the city to extend the lease waiver by a month to gain more public opinion after the New Year holidays rather than rush the vote, his efforts were defeated.

“Why would we make such a monumental deal that is the city of Anaheim’s most significant land for generations and our most valuable asset… on the eve of the holidays when people can’t pay attention to what’s going on?” Moreno said.

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Prior to 2019, the owner of Angel Stadium tried to move the baseball stadium to another location in the state before the lease expired due to a waiver clause in the contract, Moreno said.

According to Moreno, the city of Anaheim responded by trying to keep the stadium in Anaheim by extending the withdrawal deadline by a year to negotiate.

In December 2019, the city approved the sale of the 150-acre stadium site to Arte’s Moreno’s SRB Management for $320 million, to be paid in installments over the next four years at a fixed interest rate of 2.35 percent per annum.

The agreement was approved by the city council by a vote of 4 to 2, with Moreno and former councilor Denise Barnes disagreeing.

The Epoch Times Photos
Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California on September 16, 2020. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Despite city officials questioning the transparency of the stadium sale, Anaheim spokesman Mike Lister said in a statement that the city stands by the decision.

“We have confidence in our entire process, including the appropriate closed briefings and the guidance given to staff at those briefings,” Lister said. “Some just don’t want the stadium deal to go through for their own reasons, and this statement and a lot around it reflect that.”

While city officials will appear in court Feb. 14 to hear the charges, Moreno thanked the Orange County People’s Homeless Task Force for filing the lawsuit in an attempt to create a more transparent government.

In response to the city allegedly approving the sale without giving other bidders the opportunity to place an offer for the land, the city received an affordable housing law violation notice from the public housing and community development (HCD) on December 8. 2021.

The notice required the City of Anaheim to remedy the violation within 60 days.

While it is not known how the city will respond before the February deadline, Moreno assured the council is evaluating the breach in closed session.

The People’s Task Force on the Homeless did not respond to a request for comment.

Vanessa Serna

To follow

Vanessa Serna is a daily news reporter for The Epoch Times based in California.

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