Anaheim mayor steps down, critics call for end to $320M Angel Stadium sale

Corruption scandal prompts lawmakers to seek forensic audit of deal with team owner Arte Moreno

Former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu and Angels owner Art Moreno with a rendering of what the future Angel Stadium in Anaheim will be like (City of Anaheim, Wikipedia, Getty)
Former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu and Angels owner Art Moreno with a rendering of what the future Angel Stadium in Anaheim will be like (City of Anaheim, Wikipedia, Getty)

A $320-million deal to sell Angel Stadium and develop more than 5,000 homes to go with offices, shops, restaurants and hotels around the home field of the Angels baseball franchise might be headed to the paper shredder.

Elected officials from Orange County to Sacramento to Washington, D.C. have called for scuttling the deal  in light of an unfolding corruption scandal involving former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu, the Orange County Register reported.

Sidhu stepped down this week after a federal agent accused him of providing confidential information about the stadium sale in hopes of receiving $1 million in campaign aid. He has not been charged with wrongdoing.

Sidhu was among the strongest supporters of the sale’s terms, which have been derided by many critics as too favorable to the Angels and not beneficial enough to Anaheim.

The City Council will meet to discuss the future of the stadium deal with a company controlled by Arte Moreno, owner of the Angels baseball team.

A chorus is growing to kill the deal, which was once projected by an economic impact study, paid for by Moreno, to hold the potential to add $652 million to city coffers over 30 years.

Anaheim Mayor Pro Tem Trevor O’Neil has publicly said he doesn’t support going ahead with a deal touted by its supporters for its ability to create a vibrant entertainment district of restaurants, shops, thousands of apartments and condos and 45,000 jobs.

State Sen. Tom Umberg, D-Santa Ana, joined Assemblyman Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, and Rep. Lou Correa, who represents Anaheim, calling for an end to the deal. They penned a letter to Anaheim council members arguing that “as new information continues to come to light” the sale of the stadium “must be canceled.”

They also suggest any council member identified by investigators – all names in the publicly released affidavits have been redacted – should recuse themselves from negotiations until the investigations are concluded, and the city should use an independent professional negotiator.

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They also called for a new appraisal of the stadium property. The fair market value of a vacant stadium site was worth as much as $500 million, according to a city-commissioned appraiser.

Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley called for an audit of all active contracts Orange County and the Orange County Transportation Authority have with the Angels  and the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, also implicated in the corruption scandal.

Sidhu’s resignation comes a few days after the Angels and SRB Management sent Anaheim a letter demanding the city approve the Angel Stadium sale by June 14.

They said the deal “was the result of honest arms-length negotiations with city staff and its advisors, and has been thoroughly analyzed and debated.”

Paul S. Meyre, Sidhu’s attorney, insisted his client will be cleared of all allegations, including that he gave a political consultant information to pass on to the Angels in the negotiations for the stadium’s sale.

“A fair and thorough investigation will prove that Mayor Harry Sidhu did not leak secret information in the hopes of a later political campaign contribution,” Meyer said. “No closed session material, no secret information, was disclosed by Mayor Sidhu.”

[Orange County Register] – Dana Bartholomew

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