The City of Anaheim has refuted a lawsuit alleging a majority of its City Council conspired in secret to sell Angel Stadium in the middle of lease negotiations in 2019.
The civil complaint, if proven in court, could scuttle the sale of the 150-acre stadium and surrounding parking lots for $325 million three years ago to a management company controlled by Angels owner Arte Moreno, the Voice of O.C. reported. A trial is set for Feb. 14.
On Jan. 12, the People’s Homeless Task Force filed suit alleging the city committed five violations of the state Brown Act because “all the deal points [had] been negotiated in secret” – that the city failed to provide timely public notification that the land would be sold rather than leased.
Anaheim defended the sale in a Jan. 27 legal filing, arguing the lawsuit relies on “speculation, misstatements of the evidence, deliberate omission of contrary evidence, and unsupported legal theories.”
City attorneys also called for written statements by a current and former city official declaring that the council majority decided to sell in secret be stricken from the public record. They said the statements violated rules barring the disclosure of what happens during closed-door meetings.
Anaheim Councilmember Jose Moreno and former city manager Chris Zapata both testified that the council decided to sell the property in a closed session two months before the city said it started formal negotiations. The City Council approved the sale of Angels Stadium on Dec. 20, 2019.
“The idea that the city says it can violate the law and nobody can tell anyone is absolutely ridiculous,” Kelly Aviles, the attorney representing the People’s Homeless Task Force that’s suing the city, told the Voice of O.C.
“That kind of reasoning is right out of a Mafia Don’s playbook,” he said. “The idea that there should be this code of silence on when people are violating the law is straight out of Mafia culture.”
Attorneys representing SRB Management, the management company controlled by Moreno, argued in the legal filing that the sale should not be nullified even if the city of Anaheim violated a state law in negotiating the deal, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Besides the lawsuit, Anaheim faces another challenge to the viability of the stadium sale. The California Department of Housing and Community Development found the stadium sale violated a law meant to maximize development of affordable housing. The violation must be resolved by Feb. 6.