The FBI is investigating Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu for alleged corruption related to the $320-million sale of Angel Stadium.
The federal probe of the Anaheim official prompted the office of Attorney General Rob Bonta to ask a judge to suspend an agreement between the Orange County city and the state intended to settle a dispute over affordable housing and the stadium deal.
Authorities are investigating whether Sidhu “shared privileged and confidential information with the Angels during stadium sale negotiations, actively concealed same from a Grand Jury inquiry, and expects to receive campaign contributions as a result,” according to an affidavit filed in federal court in support of search warrants for Sidhu’s property.
Bonta’s office became aware of the federal warrant that “sets forth serious allegations of unlawful conduct” related to the stadium sale, according to the court filing seeking to stay the agreement with the city.
“These allegations call into question not only the validity of the land sale, but of the Stipulation for Entry of Judgment that is currently pending before this court,” Bonta’s filing said.
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Thom Mrozek said that multiple warrants were granted and executed on Thursday allowing searches of Sidhu’s email and cellphone, as well as a hangar at Chino Airport and a helicopter that Sidhu owns and keeps there.
Sidhu could not be immediately reached for comment. His attorney Paul Meyer, said it would be premature to comment on the allegations.
The deal to sell the city-owned stadium to SRB Management, a business partnership controlled by Angels owner Arte Moreno, has been under ongoing scrutiny.
While some critics said the sale price was too low, a residents’ group filed a lawsuit that argued the city broke state open meetings law in crafting and approving the deal. The federal affidavit said Sidhu’s alleged withholding of information may have influenced the unsuccessful outcome of the residents’ lawsuit.
In addition, state housing officials in December said Anaheim broke a state law requiring surplus city property such as the stadium should have been offered to potential developers of affordable housing.
City leaders have denied the allegations, saying its actions were lawful and in the best interest of Anaheim residents.
To settle the dispute whether Anaheim broke an affordable housing law, the two sides agreed in April to the stipulated judgment that requires the city spend $96 million of the proceeds from the stadium sale to build up to 1,000 affordable units offsite within five years.
“We are troubled by this,” Anaheim City Manager Jim Vanderpool said in a statement. “Throughout this process, Anaheim staff and the City Council have worked in good faith on a proposal that offered benefits for our community.”
The Sidhu investigation has been underway since at least 2019, according to the FBE affidavit, which alleges Sidhu engaged in potentially criminal conduct that included:
- Sharing confidential information with Angels Baseball while the city was negotiating the stadium deal, “with the expectation of receiving a sizable contribution to his reelection campaign from a prominent Angels representative.”
- Concealing information from the Orange County Grand Jury and possibly destroying evidence, including deleting text messages and emails.
- Instructing a witness who was cooperating with the FBI investigation to lie to the OC Grand Jury.
- Fraudulently registering a helicopter he was purchasing to an Arizona address to avoid paying nearly $16,000 in California sales taxes.
Two cooperating witnesses, including an employee of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, provided information to the FBI, the affidavit said, with the chamber employee wearing a wire during several conversations with the mayor.
In those conversations, Sidhu allegedly expressed an expectation of campaign contributions of at least $1 million from an unnamed Angels representative, the affidavit said.
[Orange County Register] – Dana Bartholomew