The Anaheim Corruption Report Cover-Up Begins. UPDATE Wednesday: “JUST TRUST US!”

Seven Disney-created dwarfs simultaneously thinking, “This CAN’T be good!”

Well, at tonight’s (May 2) Anaheim Council meeting, the seven Councilmembers (most of them elected with hundreds of thousands of Disney money) will be taking up Item 10, which is apparently the item Natalie Meeks “agendized” on March 28, although it’s magically much more fleshed-out and detailed than what she called for that night, so it almost seems like it was NOT properly agendized:

  1. Review and modify the decision of the previous City Council to immediately release the investigative report being prepared by JL Group, LLC to address concerns raised by the investigative team, be consistent with the terms of the
    parties’ contract, minimize the City’s exposure to liability for constitutional/privacy rights violations, and preserve applicable privileges.; and
  1. Appoint Scott Tiedemann of the firm Liebert Cassidy Whitmore as Special Counsel to advise the City concerning the JL Group investigation and report, and authorize Special Counsel to work with JL Group to prepare a report that can be publicly released without exposing the City to liability or violating rights or privileges.

If you haven’t been following the saga of this Council-commissioned corruption investigation, paid for with $1.5 million of our taxpayer money, you COULD read the last three stories we wrote about it:

At the November 15, 2022 meeting the previous Council, still shellshocked by the FBI corruption revelations and forced resignation of Mayor Sidhu, voted UNANIMOUSLY to make the results of this investigation public. But it’s been clear for months that AT LEAST TWO of our newly elected Councilmembers – Natalie Meeks and Natalie Rubalcava – are very hostile to this investigation and report and are doing their best to keep it as secret as possible. And now they’re latching on to a couple of cautionary sentences written by Judge Clay Smith (administrator of the investigative team) in his monthly progress reports. Well, let’s listen to what Judge Smith ACTUALLY SAID (in late October) when questioned by Gloria Ma’ae about releasing the report:

Well, THAT was sure strong! And you’ll notice in the video that he is followed by strong agreement from both Jose Diaz (still on council) and Avelino Valencia (now in assembly, but replaced by THREE close allies – Carlos Leon, Norma Kurtz, and the problematic Natalie Rubalcava who is now his district director – you’d hope they’d take their mentor’s words to heart!) Well, what changed (besides the Council) since the last Council enthusiastically voted to make the report public?

According to the Staff Report (which Greg Diamond has already made a seven-course meal out of) that Council was acting rashly and in IGNORANCE! They had NO IDEA what the report would uncover, or they never would have agreed to release it! Don’t believe me? In the Staff Report’s words:

“Here, while the prior City Council voted to make the JL Group report public, it did not discuss or consider a waiver of the attorney-client privilege with respect to either the JL Group report (which the contract provides is privileged) or any underlying privileged or confidential information that might be in that report. Nor could the Council know what it was waiving (or even that there might be a waiver) without having some information as to what would be in the JL Group report. Further, given that the Council was unaware of the information gathered by JL Group or what might be part of the final report, it did not discuss or consider any legal consequences of releasing a report that might violate individual privacy rights.”

And they made this rash, irresponsible vote with the blessing of City Attorney Fabela!

The Fentanyl in my House Analogy

I gotta give Greg credit for this analogy too, although he didn’t include it in his piece: the Staff Report is arguing that Council could give you permission to search their house, thinking you would not find any fentanyl in it, and then when you searched it and DID find fentanyl, they could revoke that permission! I think you’ll agree, it doesn’t work that way.

And what’s this about “Attorney-Client Privilege?” Throwing all the spaghetti at the wall that she could find at hand, assistant city attorney Pelletier claims that the City enjoys Attorney-Client Privilege with the JL Group, so they don’t really have to tell us shit. WAIT A SECOND – not only are the JL Group NOT ATTORNEYS, but THEY WERE NOT HIRED AS ATTORNEYS EITHER. Pelletier attempts to conjure a second-or-third-generation A-C Privilege based on the fact that some of the information the City shared with JL was originally covered by A-C Privilege with some other attorneys. Raise your hand if you think that passes the smell test, and watch out for the flying spaghetti! [Update – apparently the Jeffreys ARE attorneys – see below – but still they were not HIRED as attorneys.]

What Judge Smith actually wrote, which Meeks and any other transparency opponents are hanging their hats on, was this: .

“First, we are finding that some witnesses are reluctant to speak to the investigators because they know that whatever they say will be attributed to them and will be released to the public. The investigators are coping with this obstacle, but I did want you to be aware of it. Second, City employees or officials ultimately identified in the report may have applicable privacy and employment rights impacted by releasing the report. We urge the City to review carefully these issues prior to the release of the final report.”

As a layman, who could play a layman on TV, I’d say it’s okay to conceal the identities of employees NOT accused of wrongdoing, who were witnesses, and WANT to hide their identities (the investigators already said they didn’t include anything they couldn’t corroborate.) It should be up to these witnesses if they want their names redacted; none of them were coerced into speaking but they MIGHT fear retribution. Ask THEM if they want to be anonymous, but the public needs to know WHO’S RESPONSIBLE for the billions bled out of our city over the decades and how it happened.

Well, who is this Scott Tiedemann

of Liebert Cassidy Whitmore,

and why is he agreeing to do this work for FREE?

Yes, the Staff Report does mention NO “budgetary impact” for having this special counsel help redact our $1.5 million corruption report. Well, we don’t know much about Mr. Tiedemann per se beyond his self-descriptions, but we do know why he would not be charging Anaheim – his firm Liebert (let’s just call em “Liebert”) is already on retainer with the city.

We know of at least one job they did “for the City” back in 2014, and it was in the roll of Incompetent Yes-Men. When the Cabal-dominated 2013 Council fired decent City Attorney Cristina Talley for giving them GOOD, CORRECT ADVICE (premonitions of the Chris Zapata firing) – she advised them correctly against continuing to fight against the district elections lawsuit, and told them correctly that the GardenWalk Giveaway vote was not properly publicized and needed to be redone – she sued the City for wrongful termination. The Cabal-dominated Council gave Liebert the task of determining if there were any merits to her claims and they said no. Two years later she won her suit and got $1.5 million from us. So there’s that.

Googling (by Fred Sigala) also turned up two instances of the Liebert firm doing what’s apparently their specialty – helping cities cover things up:

As the kids say, “CHECKS OUT.” What a perfect law firm for Natalie Meeks to choose to help cover up OUR investigation. Watch the Council, in a few months, say, “Sorry, we can’t release anything now, it’s protected by attorney-client privilege with LIE-bert.” Are you mad yet?

In Conclusion

  • There should be no redactions in the report released to the public July 1 beyond the names of innocent employee/witnesses who may fear retribution – and that should be up to each of them, whether they want their names redacted.
  • Judge Smith should be perfectly capable of making those redactions himself – toss him an extra ten thousand for his time.
  • CALLING STEVE FAESSEL! The old, pro-transparency Steve Faessel of late 2022. We need you to stop recusing/abstaining on this. If Natalie Meeks, who is certainly a subject of this report, is not going to recuse or abstain, then neither can you.
  • We don’t know if this latest Council attempt is gonna take two readings or not, so if ANY OF YOU READERS care about this, you need to be there at 5 or 6 tonight.
  • And let’s remind the Council, in the immortal words of that old Watergate cliche:

“It’s not the crime, it’s the COVER-UP.”


UPDATE Wednesday Morning: “JUST TRUST US!”

It passed with 5 votes, Faessel abstaining again and Natalie R voting no, which surprised me – I’m still waiting for her explanation of why she voted no, but till she gets back to me I’m gonna guess it’s because Judge Smith is going to be involved in the process and she’s obviously hostile to the whole investigative team. Natalie also worried aloud that JL would now take even longer to produce their report and threatened “breach of contract” if they did (one thing we both agree on is we can’t wait to see the final product) AND she emphasized that the previous Council, when they voted for public release of the report in November, “was badly advised” – an obvious shot at City Attorney Fabela, who is looking more and more sympathetic.

One thing I had wrong – apparently the two Jeffreys of JL Group ARE in fact attorneys, but still the City didn’t hire them as attorneys so there should be no “privilege” there. The longtime Chief Assistant Attorney Kristen Pelletier, who seems to be in charge of this whole redaction effort (which we’ll call the “Redaction Team” of Pelletier, Human Resources Director Linda Andal, “SCOTT” Tiedemann and apparently Judge Smith) still claims there’s A-C Privilege because the City shared some info with JL that originally was protected by A-C Privilege with other attorneys. It’s still unclear if Pelletier is trying to deduce from that that JUST THAT INFO is still protected, or if EVERYTHING between the City and JL is thus protected – that latter doesn’t make sense to me.

The struggle was over when it became clear that Judge Clay Smith (who has come to represent the “transparency” end of the spectrum) showed up, clearly supported the redactions, and is apparently going to be part of the Redaction Team. THAT moved the Overton’s Window so that anyone who opposed these redactions seemed extreme and irresponsible. It’s unclear how much authority the Judge will have vis-a-vis the other three, or if maybe our conception of the Judge as a beacon of transparency has been overblown.

The couple dozen of us who showed up to speak against this were told that our fears and concerns were exaggerated. The Redaction Team will apply a “balancing test” (which sounds very subjective,) taking into account how prominent the actor is (with elected leaders at top), versus how serious and how proven the accusation is. Wait a second – we’re already talking about protecting the identities of the guilty or accused, not just witnesses???

Councilman Carlos Leon (bless his cautious heart) attempted to amend the motion so that at least the names of ELECTED OFFICIALS wouldn’t be redacted, but the Assistant City Attorney shot that down – she couldn’t guarantee she could abide by that because she didn’t know yet what “personal information” about elected officials could be in the report. WAIT – doesn’t STAFF (like Pelletier) take orders from COUNCIL (like Leon?) On the other hand, poor Carlos had no backup from any of his colleagues so that decent amendment slunk away.

Will add more as I think of it. I do not like being in “JUST TRUST US” mode with these longtime Anaheim insiders. We’ll see what comes out in I guess August. And discuss our options.

Also see Eric Neshanian’s comments below.

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, or 714-235-VERN.