Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu has resigned in the face of a growing federal corruption investigation alleging Sidhu sought to wring campaign donations from baseball stadium negotiations.
Sidhu, a Republican, has not been charged with a crime, and a statement from his attorney Paul S. Meyer said a “fair and thorough investigation” would exonerate the mayor. Elected officials in Anaheim had formally urged Sidhu to step aside.
“In order to continue to act in the best interests of Anaheim and allow this great City to move forward without distraction, Harry Sidhu has resigned from his post as Mayor effective May 24, 2022,” Meyer said in a statement.
A federal affidavit released this week has jolted California’s tenth-largest city, laying out evidence that Sidhu sought to turn the city’s prolonged attempt to sell Angel Stadium — home of the major league Angels — to his personal advantage.
The city has spent years negotiating terms for selling the ballpark and the land on which it sits to a group led by Angels owner Arte Moreno. According to an affidavit from Federal Bureau of Investigation Agent Brian C. Adkins, Sidhu used an intermediary to pass confidential information about those talks to an Angels representative and then sought to conceal his actions. An Angels representative did not respond to requests for comment.
More explosively, the affidavit alleges that Sidhu repeatedly discussed his intention to ask an Angels representative for half a million dollars or more in campaign donations in exchange for his work advancing the proposed stadium deal. Meyer said in his statement that the affidavit showed Sidhu “never asked for a political campaign contribution that was linked in any way to the negotiation process.”
“His unwavering goal from the start has been to keep the Angels in Anaheim, so that this vibrant social and economic relationship will continue,” Meyer said in his statement.
An underlying federal investigation alleges a pervasive culture of corruption in Anaheim, which Adkins described as being “tightly controlled by a small cadre of individuals” that included Sidhu.
In a separate affidavit laying out a money laundering investigation accusing former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce President Todd Ament of lying on a mortgage application, Adkins alleged that Ament and a campaign consultant sought to influence policy via what Ament and his consultant called their “cabal” of people who wield power over Anaheim’s affairs.
The affidavit describes the two discussing how they expect loyalty after securing an elected official’s reelection and that they could “give” him a promotion, and recounting how an elected official used a “script” they wrote for him to read at a city council meeting.
A California Democratic Party official, Melahat Rafiei, resigned her posts on Sunday after having told the Voice of OC that she was an unnamed confidential informant whom Adkins’ affidavit describes as offering to bribe elected officials.
A judge has halted the planned stadium transaction at the request of the California Department of Justice. The DOJ had secured a stipulated judgment in which Anaheim paid a $96 million fine to resolve allegations that the city’s ballpark deal violated state land-use laws.