The Anaheim Cabal dishes on its Council Puppets.

A full month after Councilman Jordan Brandman resigned in disgrace, a friend of ours observed him literally sobbing on the phone for half an hour that “Jeff and Todd let me down. They stabbed me in the back.” He was obviously referring to Jeff Flint and Todd Ament, referred to as “Political Consultant 2” and “Cooperating Witness 1” in the recent FBI filings, and their forcing Jordan to resign from Council during the uproar following this blog’s release of his Vicious Texts.

Immediately upon Jordan’s resignation, other interested Parties comically claimed that it was THEY who forced Jordan out – both the Democratic Party of OC and Mayor Sidhu wanted credit! Pero no, it was Jeff and Todd, the men we always suspected ran our town’s Mayor and Council, who pushed the button. (The DPOC and Sidhu had been covering for Jordan as long as they could.) Only Todd Ament and Jeff Flint had that kind of power.

(Before we move on, the latest on Jordan: He’s doing better with a cushy job at the Building Industry Association – obedient politicians are always rewarded. AND he was visited himself a few months ago by the FBI, who questioned him about the Angels swindle – could we see Jordan in the news again soon?)

FBI agent Adkins goes to great lengths describing the power Flint and Ament held over our elected officials – and not because that’s a crime but because it’s an important building block to his proving actual crimes. But that power SHOULD be a big problem to YOU AND ME. We did not vote for Jeff Flint or Todd Ament, and those of us who did vote for Sidhu, Faessel etc. were never told by them that they’d be following the orders of these two private individuals. So the following conversations shortly after the Nov 2020 election, secretly recorded by the FBI, SHOULD be shocking to you and me. They may be amusing, they may be “just what we expected,” but don’t let them lose the OUTRAGE that they should pack.

I translate FBI code names to actual identities:

  • Political Consultant 1 (PC1) = Jeff Flint, FSB Consulting
  • Cooperating Witness 2 (CW2) = Todd Ament, then-Anaheim Chamber CEO
  • Company A Employee – We don’t know what company or which employee, but for now we’ll call him “Mickey.” UPDATE – how close were we??? The Times confirms that Company A is Disney Resort, and the Employee is their government relations head Carrie Nocella! Who was actually our first guess.
  • Elected Official 1 (EO1) = Mayor Harry Sidhu
  • EO2 = Councilman Avelino Valencia (newly elected Nov 2020)
  • EO3 = Councilman Trevor O’Neil!
  • EO4 = Councilman Steve Faessel (newly RE-elected Nov 2020, later Mayor Pro-Tem)
  • EO5 = Councilman Jordan Brandman!
  • EO6 = The hated Councilman Dr. Jose Moreno – the only non-team player!
  • EO7 = Councilman Jose Diaz (newly elected Nov 2020)

And here we go now, the taped Nov. 23, 2020 conversation, concerning whom exactly they’ll invite to the first hotel “retreat” of the new season:

  • Ament: And then we gotta decide are we bring in the other two council members.
  • Flint: Yes, uh.
  • Ament: So, Avelino Valencia and Trevor O’Neil.
  • Flint: Well, so you know, I was a little bit rethinking that now, I agree with the premise that we need to keep Avelino close, but does that mean that we include him in the second retreat but not the first retreat, because the first retreat needs to be, you know, family members only? …..
  • Ament: For me, we know Avelino this much right, so if we go take him into the cabal and he’s playing double agent, then we are all screwed.
  • Flint: Right, that’s my point, I think, like for example, at the retreat, I want to have a topic being, how much do we trust Jordan? How much do we trust Avelino? I don’t have any doubt about Jose Diaz. I’m not advocating that we invite him, I’m just saying I don’t think we need to worry about him. I think ideologically he is a true believer.

They show great restraint and understanding, characterizing “Little Ricky’s” belief system as an “ideology.” If Diaz has an ideology, it is simply “BUSINESS GOOD, GOVERNMENT COMMUNIST.” And that is an “ideology” that, rightly, leads Jeff and Todd to not worry about him. Diaz has no little capacity for independent thought.

  • Ament: Avelino has a very easy, bright future playing to the team, right?
  • Flint: Right.
  • Ament: He is smart enough to know how to take hall passes where he needs them, but not screw with your team. So I think having that relationship is key, but we don’t have any reason to distrust him, but we don’t have a good enough reason to go have the family meeting with him. I agree with that.
  • Flint: Right.
  • Ament: Cause I was either gonna be zero Councilmembers at the retreat beyond Sidhu, there was even a part of me that said let’s leave Harry out of this, candidly, and say let’s build the plan on what needs to be the ship cause Harry’s very good at participating in a meeting, but he knows if we need to cover topics, you know 90% of time he lets us go, without saying nope this is how it’s gonna be, and I think today was a perfect example, the more people in the room that gets a little more awkward.
  • Flint: Do we include any other council members? If we do, I’m kind of defaulting to back to O’Neil and Faessel at this first one. O’Neil may do a little bit of self promoting but at the end of the day, he’s going to be loyal to the team, Faessel the same. Almost to the point, Faessel, we tell him, we got you reelected, we expect you to be a loyal member of the team, you know for purposes, we’re going to do a little bit more with Avelino to keep him close, and that means there’s a couple you get excluded from, and it’s not because we don’t love you anymore, it’s because strategically that’s what we need to do for the next two years. You’ll always have your voice, plus you — give him the Mayor Pro Tem and tell him he’s always gonna be our number one guy, but we’re gonna keep Avelino close. Trevor up for reelection so he’s gotta be at more of the meetings, but hopefully Faessel won’t whine about that, but it would be do we invite Faessel and tell him that at the retreat, I was thinking about that.

FBI Investigator Adkins marvels: “Flint and Ament appeared to have the power to summon Mayor Sidhu at their whim, and to “give” Councilman Faessel the Mayor Pro Tem position — a position that neither Flint nor Ament could “give” without having influence over Anaheim Councilmembers in their official capacity.”

But I’ve had my hand up for a while, with a few observations… may I speak now?

First, HALL PASSES, Avelino? You’re smart enough to “take hall passes” when you need them, to placate your “competing pressures,” and still “not screw with your team.” Impressive! We’ve seen Avelino’s “hall passes,” he actually gets a lot of them, especially when speaking against the Angels Stadium Giveaway now that it can safely be blamed on others (but remember he refused to say anything about it in 2020 when he was running and it was still on the table – THAT coulda led to the loss of endorsements and cash!) He also gets hall passes to join Moreno on opposing bad developments, like the carwash replacing Sunkist Plaza and the Jagerhaus – but always when it doesn’t make a difference to the vote.

In fact Faessel ALSO got a hall pass on Sunkist Plaza, since it was in his district, and that’s when I learned what a Hall Pass really entails. Steve announced he was going to vote against the project (opposing Flint that is!), acted like a hero to the displaced businesses, gave a dozen great legitimate reasons that the project sucked ass, BUT when we asked him to help convince some of his colleagues to also oppose it, he was all “Oh you need to give up. It’ll never happen. We don’t have the votes.” THAT is a Hall Pass.

Final thought on hall passes: When do these men graduate high school?

But I got a couple more things here, real quick, real quick. I keep re-reading that comment from Todd about Harry, how “90% of time he lets us go, without saying nope this is how it’s gonna be, and … the more people in the room that gets a little more awkward.” (And what happened “today” was a “perfect example.”) Is that sinking through to you? Harry sits there at meetings silently absorbing all the instructions he receives from Todd and Jeff, maybe grunting “Yes” occasionally, NEVER dissenting or making alterations to their desires, and THAT IS ACTUALLY EMBARRASSING to Todd and Jeff when there are a lot of people around witnessing that obeisance from the Mayor.

I have always, at the risk of being called some kind of racist, accused Harry Sidhu of retaining a kind of CASTE SYSTEM in his head – in which he feels and behaves as though he is inherently superior to 99% of us peons, but – as a condition of maintaining that superiority – remains loyal and subservient to a caste of BETTER MEN, men such as Flint, Ament, and the moneyed interests THEY represent so well.

Third, and then I promise I’ll shut up for a while: I wonder how Councilman Steven Faessel (who when first running boasted to the OC Register that he always keeps a “bottle of Curt Pringle’s favorite wine on hand” at his home) feels about how these guys talk about him? “We got you re-elected, we expect you to be a loyal member of the team.” If we don’t invite you to this one retreat “It’s not because we don’t love you any more.” We’ll give you pro-tem and “hopefully you won’t whine…” Reading all that probably made him squint and grimace, but he must be used to it by now.

They sure did “get Steve re-elected,” against my candidate Kenneth Batiste (and Democrat spoiler Sabrina Quezada, whom they encouraged to split the vote.) Early, very incomplete figures showed the Cabal’s special interests spending $713,000 to Kenneth’s $16,000 – 45 times as much, as well as $64 per Faessel vote vs. $4.50 per Batiste vote. The Cabal’s special interests? That was, as usual, Disney, developers, landlords, Police union, Fire union, and the Chamber itself. I do hope Steve didn’t “whine” too much about not being invited to every “retreat,” and realizes that this was not because “they don’t love him any more.”

“Manipulating the Polls” and Exploding SOAR heads.

  • Ament: To me, I don’t think Jose Diaz, I think this would be a lot for him to absorb in his first week on Council. It’s kind of like when S.O.A.R. took how the sausage was made to the S.O.A.R. Board to show them how polling works and how we manipulate it. That’s when half of S.O.A.R. kind of went off the deep end.
  • Flint: [Laughs]
  • AMENT: [UI] We’re part of the manipulation. I think it’s too early for Diaz to get into this level of detail.
  • Flint: Yeah, I agree.

*I* want to know about that! When did this happen? (For new readers who may not know, SOAR is Disney’s front group – or more precisely, the lobbying organization for Disney and the resort hotels.)

Not only do these two happily, proudly, admit to “manipulating polls” to help their candidates win elections, when they explained all that to the SOAR board, “half of them went off the deep end.” What does that mean, did half the SOAR board quit, or just get freaked out? I’d really like to hear a report on that from someone who’s still on SOAR. Like Gloria Ma’ae – did the sausage-making report on poll manipulating drive HER off the deep end, and if not, why not?

And how IS this poll-manipulating sausage made? We all know about “push polls,” in which positive and negative “information” is snuck into the poll questions, to not only manipulate results but also propagate that “information.” Does the Chamber go beyond that, actually falsifying poll results to manipulate elections? Knowing THAT could drive a decent Anaheim voter “off the deep end.” Contact me, someone!

The Function of Avelino.

The cabal’s qualms about Avelino, with his “competing pressures,” apparently didn’t last long, as on November 30, the FBI recorded this conversation between Flint and Mayor Sidhu:

  • Sidhu: Did you invite Diaz and Avelino?
  • Flint: No, I talked about it with Todd and Carrie Nocella (of Disney); we felt like for this first one we’ll kinda keep things big picture and stick with um, with um, Faessel and O’Neil. And part of what we’ll talk about is our plan to manage our relationship, you know particularly with Avelino. I think Diaz is gonna be fine on everything. But um, Avelino’s, you know, I think he’s on the team, but he’s just gonna take some management because he’s got competing pressures and things so um–
  • Sidhu: Oh yeah yeah, he will, I mean you can already see some of them like he wants to do the um, take care of the health issues in Anaheim–
  • Flint: Right.
  • Sidhu: –right away, I mean I saw that article what he gave an interview with.
  • Flint: Right.
  • Sidhu: So, which is basically fine, we can, you know, we can put a team together, health team, hard to handle that, but will take away from Moreno.
  • Flint: Right, exactly, which is what told me he was trying to accomplish, and I said, “yeah, let’s talk about it before you say it next time, but yes I appreciate that, so.”
  • Sidhu: Yeah, at least put him and, uh, maybe Jordan in there and I could be part of it, you know, three of us.
  • Flint: Right.
  • Sidhu: Yeah, so take it away from everything from what Moreno wants to do, so, okay alright.

Avelino tries hard to not offend anyone on any side, as he continues his so-far smooth ascent up the political ladder, like a large cautious minnow avoiding sharks on all sides. He sprinted last Tuesday to be the first Councilman to call for Sidhu’s resignation! In the wake of the embarrassing revelations in this FBI Ament complaint, he’s told journalists he was never comfortable with this cabal, and their retreats, and has been avoiding them. (Though he never said a word to anyone about the whole thing.)

But this doesn’t look good – Flint claims that the big guy told him that what he was “trying to accomplish” by talking about health care during the pandemic was to sideline Jose Moreno – and that Flint responded, “Yeah, let’s talk about it before you say it next time, but yes, I appreciate that.” Why would Flint make that up, about Avelino? It sure made Harry happy with the big guy. Will Avelino say they were lying about him?

I’m going to go ahead and posit that “The Function of Avelino” has been to redraw the line of how progressive, open and honest the Council can be; to draw that line closer to the kleptocrats; with the aim of drawing Moreno out of the limits.

The Big Kids Mock Sidhu

We could always tell that Sidhu didn’t write his own statements, that he’d be reading off a script someone else wrote, and stumbling over unfamiliar words (much like Michelle Steel.) Well, on pages 32-4 of the Ament filing we learn how the FBI intercepted calls and texts showing that Jeff Flint drafted a script with the collaboration of Ament and Disney government relations head Carrie Nocella (right), for Sidhu to deliver during the Consent Calendar at the 3/23/2021 meeting. (Hmm… why is Disney helping to write our Mayor’s presentation on taking out a bond that doesn’t have anything obvious to do with Disney?) Agent Adkins tells us that “multiple drafts of this script were sent back and forth between Flint & Ament’s assistant related to this bond measure.

“On March 23, just hours before the Council meeting, Flint received an incoming text message from Mickey’s assistant that read, ‘Please let me know if there are any further changes to [version 6] of Sidhu’s Comments on Item #2.’ Flint replied, via text message, ‘DISNEY asked to delete reference to their parking lot. Will send to you.’ I have reviewed Sidhu’s comments related to Item #2 on the consent calendar March 23 and did not hear him reference DIsney’s parking lot.

Later that evening, likely during the meeting which was being live streamed, an incoming text message from Nocella to Flint was intercepted.”

  • Nocella, texting: “Harry reads your script so poorly.”
  • Flint, texting: “LOL. He doesn’t practice.”

LOL, I know we’ve all seen Harry read prepared statements REALLY BADLY (even though he’s been in this country 48 years) and of course he’d be too arrogant and lazy to bother rehearsing, but I just had to see this one, and… it is REALLY bad, and long. If you want to hear SOME of it, click here and go to 2:48:29, so you can be like Mickey and Jeff and say “Damn, Harry reads badly. LOL” This was the time last year that Anaheim took out a $210 million bond to help us “get out of debt,” putting our City Hall and nine other city properties up as collateral, and Flint & co wrote Harry quite a speech, which he went up and read badly. (Video coming soon!)

Four Presents for YOU, for reading so far!

First, you wanna see the place Todd Ament was trying to buy in Big Bear, with his ill-gotten, purloined gains, the place that got him in so much trouble? Yeah, you do…

https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/1100-Heritage-Trl-Big-Bear-City-CA-92314/89166538_zpid/

Second – the other half of this scandal revolves around Anaheim’s aborted 2020 attempt to legalize and regulate cannabis dispensaries in town. I wrote all about that here and here, but the actual vote (and Harry managing to change his vote after the fact) was really funny, and I made a video about it at the time:

It’s still early in 2022, but the Orange Juice Blog has an exclusive look at the year’s budget (which we found on Reddit somewhere)

(This would not have been credible had they not included Helicopter Fuel)

AND FINALLY, I swear to God this is not photoshopped, but straight from Harry’s re-election website which is STILL UP!

Time for bed now … and in the morning let’s see which of the 96 remaining SHOES fall off this damn centipede! (Hat-tip John Mc Cain.)

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.