Waiting for the Redacted Corruption Report…

Reportedly the JL Group turned in their INDEPENDENT investigation into Anaheim corruption (paid for with $1.5 million public money) on INDEPENDENCE DAY, a week ago. (Did you hear the fireworks?) So now we gotta wait an unspecified number of weeks for insider attorney Scott Tiedemann to remove or redact names from it – that takes a while. We wonder what’ll be left?

It seems longer ago, but it was only 14 months – May 2022 – when the shit hit the fan for Mayor Sidhu and self-styled “Cabal” leaders Todd Ament and Jeff Flint. (After DECADES of many of us complaining about pay-to-play government here!) The corrupt Angel Stadium deal was scuttled, Sidhu had to resign, Ament got in real legal hot water, Sidhu and Flint vanished.

Panic was palpable in the remaining Council, who felt the urgent need to assure the public that the rest of them were not as corrupt as Harry. One outcome was councilman Avelino Valencia – yes, it was Avelino – proposing an independent corruption report, which passed unanimously! And a few months later when people began to worry that the report might be kept secret, Council unanimously assured us that it would be released to the public!

And what an ambitious but important scope of work the investigators were given, remember?

Proposed Scope of Work Clarification (Feb. 2023 version)

  1. Investigate issues of corruption or inappropriate conduct in the proposed sale of the Anaheim
    Stadium under Mayor Hari Sidhu, to include the related Angels Stadium lease controversy.
    Also examine local corruption issues identified in the recent FBI investigation(s). This
    includes investigating the conduct of concurrent city and local elected officials, city staff,
    consultants, lobbyists, and others with direct involvement in these events.
  2. Investigate suspicious or questionable campaign donations to Anaheim elected officials which
    may have led to undue influence in any council decisions or direction from 2012 through 2022.
    Where possible, identify specific expenditures for which the donations were used by the
    elected officials.
  3. Investigate the City’s financial interactions and joint projects with the Anaheim Chamber of
    Commerce while under the leadership of Todd Ament. This should include financial
    interactions with Visit Anaheim, Anaheim First, and any PACs or charitable entities
    associated with the Chamber.
  4. Investigate any Brown Act violations by elected city officials, including serial
    communications, relative to any significant city project, event, or contract over the last ten
    years, that may have involved financial interest or undue influence.
  5. Investigate consultants and lobbyists, that did business with the Ccity on significant projects
    or contracts, that failed to properly report their involvement, and/or that made campaign
    contributions to elected city officials, over the last ten-year period.
  6. Investigate significant City Council actions, including contracts, projects, and other official
    decisions, over the last ten years, in which improprieties may have arisen in connection with
    those actions, specifically relative to issues of public corruption.
  7. Review the applicability of local ordinances, policies, or procedures. Make appropriate
    recommendations relative to improving the transparency, ethical conduct and interactions of
    Anaheim political officials, city staff, and those doing business with the city.

But, funny thing about the new Council elected late last year, when they ran for election they all expressed support for this investigation, but once it came in front of them, most of them (except Mayor Ashleigh) reacted to it with a mixture of irritation and confusion – like, what was this all about again, and can we please just make it go away?

We’ll skip that episode in February when the JL Group came back to Council wanting to double their fee because they had run across so much more corruption and illegality than they ever expected and it was gonna take em till July to finish their work – at first the Council threatened to tell them to wrap up the incomplete report as it was and cut off their pay, but they backed off after immense public outcry.

But it was around then that Councilwoman Natalie Meeks (right), a city insider throughout the whole period being examined by JL, started raising all manner of “concerns” about how the public release of the report “would hurt GOOD people.” At one point she even suggested not releasing it at all, but made it clear that she at least wanted to redact it radically.

After a few weeks she had a paragraph from Judge Clay Smith, the report’s overseer, to back her up – a paragraph expressing concerns for witnesses or whistleblowers in the city government who could fear retaliation, and also more general “privacy and employments rights” that could be impacted.

And that was enough to convince the entire Council to contract an attorney they all knew and trusted (bad sign – so much for independence) – Scott Tiedemann – to take his time redacting names out of the report before any of us could see it. Well, you wanna talk about CONCERNS, we the people have some:

The Slow Slide from Protecting the Innocent to Protecting the Guilty

Did you guys notice this? In February all the worry was for innocent employees, afraid to come forward to report wrongdoing to JL because of fear of retaliation from their bosses in Anaheim government, or lobbyists and consultants who didn’t want to get the reputation of RATS – shouldn’t they be allowed a little secrecy? Who could disagree?

But as February became March, and Assistant City Attorney Pelletier discussed the logic and mechanics of redaction, THOSE good people kind of disappeared from the conversation – we were suddenly talking about concealing the identities of politicians and city employees accused of wrongdoing!

Councilman Carlos Leon, who more than anyone else on the dais seems to remember why he’s there, attempted an amendment to except elected officials from the redactions – to make sure that we at least know which ELECTED OFFICIALS betrayed our trust, but Pelletier told him no can do – she has no idea what “personal info” on electeds could be in the report – that was her excuse. First I was, “Pelletier is staff, how can she just say no to a Councilman?” But then on the other hand Carlos got no backup on his amendment, even from the Mayor. Nice try, Carlos.

So in an inversion of the TV crime-drama boilerplate disclaimer, “The names have been redacted to protect the guilty.” Now we read in the Register what the plan is for city employees accused of wrongdoing:

Anaheim spokesperson Mike Lyster said if the report raises any concerns regarding employees, the city’s human resources department would address the issues with department heads. City Manager James Vanderpool could eventually see portions that were redacted if he needed to provide any help to the HR department.

Wait a second. Let me bold this. The acts the public is concerned about ARE NOT ROGUE ACTIONS OF UNDERLINGS. The acts we’re concerned about are SANCTIONED AND ORDERED FROM ABOVE – from the top, from Council, City Manager, etc. So the above paragraph doubly makes no sense – employees aren’t gonna be disciplined or whatever for shit they were told to do, nor should they.

But back to hiding the identities of elected malefactors, how about THIS idea (at least) from John Armstrong: How about challenging each of our councilmembers to voluntarily allow their names to be unredacted if they appear in the report? I’m gonna bring up that idea tonight, although that would probably only be difficult for Steve Faessel and (especially) Meeks. I’d like to hear City Manager Vanderpool waive redaction as well – one can dream.

Let’s see, what else?

Why Couldn’t Judge Smith make any Necessary Redactions?

Hey yeah! If they’re so concerned about employees’ privacy rights being endangered and opening the City up to litigation, WELL WE HAD A FUCKING JUDGE RIGHT HERE. It’s a good bet he knows the law, and I even suggested paying him a little extra to do that, but of course got no response from the dais.

It wasn’t necessary to hire (at we haven’t been told what price yet) an attorney whose firm has done the City’s dirty work before, a firm that has a record of helping other Cities cover up embarrassing information, a guy that Anaheim staff knows so well they fondly call him “SCOTT” … unless the staff and Council required special treatment they wouldn’t get from an objective, respected, retired jurist. Fishy as hell!

An Endgame of Innocuous Quasi-Reforms

In one of her first frenzied rants about this report, Meeks made it clear, in the childlike jargon of someone who really doesn’t take a subject very seriously, what SHE thought the publicly-released report should consist of: “findings on, you know, what needs to change in the City, or whatever those things are, okay?” Contrast that dreamed-of, three-page trifle with the SCOPE OF WORK last year’s Council assigned JL (see above), and the $1.5 million we’ve paid them.

Recommendations for “reforms?” Yawn. Let’s start with “Don’t break the law.” But the OTHER Natalie, the one of the Rubalcava variety, has caught wind of something SHE might could get behind:

Councilmember Natalie Rubalcava, who was elected in November, said she’s heard that one possible recommendation could be how the city handles ticket transparency for events. “If there are good policies for us, I would definitely want us to take them into consideration,” Rubalcava said.

At least the two Natalies, who honor their cabal predecessors’ commitment to stonewalling the Voice of OC, talk to the Register. But here we have NR letting us know how SHE plans to masquerade as a “reformer,” and attempt to placate the anti-corruption gadflies – probably not by stopping the practice of handing out free event tickets to campaign supporters (as many good-government experts urge), but to make it A LITTLE BIT EASIER for the public to look up what tickets they give out. The SMALLEST OF SMALL POTATOES when we’re talking about decades of pay-to-play, millions and millions of dollars steered to campaign contributors. But hey – at least you can look up what concert tickets we give to whom – aren’t YOU PEOPLE happy now? Will NOTHING make you people happy?

But Fred Sigala looked at the above paragraph and saw something *I* didn’t see – evidence that NR already has inside knowledge of what the report contains. He checked in with the Register and they told him NR got this “tip” from talking to “people who had talked to JL.” Pretty cheeky for someone who BLOCKADED JL from speaking to the press or anyone else! Here, I give you The Immortal FRED:

…By openly discussing potential findings prior to public release with the OC Register, Councilmember Rubalcava fails to abide by the same instruction she placed on the JL Group not to give information to the media. This hypocritical “do as I say, not as I do” behavior by an elected official is ethically problematic for several reasons:

  1. Because Rubalcava has engaged in attempted influencing of public opinion with poorly-timed, incoherent, conflation arguments during public meetings while the investigation was still ongoing as reported by Better Anaheim.
  2. Because Rubalcava may have contributed to the creation of biased narratives based on incomplete information as a result, potentially making it difficult for investigators to conduct their work objectively and without undue pressure.
  3. Rubalcava may have compromised the integrity of the process. Suspects or witnesses could have altered their testimonies or behavior once becoming aware of details being discussed, potentially hindering the ability of investigators to reach a fair and accurate conclusion.
  4. Considering the steps currently being taken to ensure sensitive and private information about individuals involved in the investigation is protected, it is now possible that Rubalcava discussing these interviews prematurely could have created a breach of confidentiality and violation of the privacy rights of those involved.

The potential harm caused by Rubalcava discussing investigation interviews before findings are released, then sharing hearsay interview information with the OC Register should be scrutinized further by both the Anaheim City Council and the public, and steps should be taken to ensure that the principles of due process, fairness, and privacy are being upheld before residents can even consider if the public release of the redacted JL Group Investigation report constitutes a just and unbiased outcome.


Vern again… Back in February, the investigators marveled, in words that struck fear into the Council’s hearts, “We have never seen anything like this before … We’ve found problems going back 20 years … There are possible criminal violations.” Well, these things didn’t just HAPPEN. PEOPLE did them. And the people of Anaheim want to know, need to know, deserve to know, HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW, WHO???


[Owl necklace a friend made me this week.]

Our Coverage Thus Far:

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official political troubadour of Anaheim and most other OC towns. Regularly makes solo performances, sometimes with his savage-jazz band The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.