City rejects lawsuit and stands by process
Anaheim, Calif. – Anaheim's brief in a lawsuit contesting the city's sale of Angel Stadium of Anaheim sets the record straight, puts to rest claims and validates an extensive, open process of public input, discussion and decision-making.
"After two years of litigation" and "claims of 'smoking gun' documents that have failed to materialize," the city's brief asks a Superior Court judge to rule in Anaheim's favor in the lawsuit, known as Peoples Homeless Task Force v. City of Anaheim.
"This sets the record straight," Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu said. "The sale of the stadium site was done right with extensive public input, debate and approval. If there was any question, this puts that to rest. We know our community supports our plan to keep and expand baseball in Anaheim. This shows they can continue to do so with confidence in our process."
The city's brief, filed on Jan. 27, takes aim at the suit's main claim that Anaheim violated a section of state law known as the Ralph M. Brown Act, which allows governments to meet in private, closed session to discuss price and terms of real estate transactions but requires any sale approval to be public.
City rejects claims
Anaheim rejects the lawsuit's claims and stands by its process, citing an opposing City Council member's own public comments validating the city's process and contradicting his declaration in support of the litigation against the city.
The lawsuit's "arguments are entirely specious, relying on speculation, misstatements of the evidence, deliberate omission of contrary evidence, and unsupported legal theories," the city's brief states. The suit's "lead argument — that a purported 'decision' to sell the property was made in closed-session meetings in August and September of 2019 — is contradicted by the public statements of Petitioner's own declarant, Councilmember Jose Moreno. Although Petitioner provided a declaration of Moreno stating that such a 'decision' to 'sell' was made in August and September of 2019, Moreno said the exact opposite in his video-recorded statements at the City Council meeting of Dec. 20, 2019, when the initial purchase agreement was first approved."
In a declaration in support of the lawsuit against the city, Anaheim City Council Member Jose F. Moreno states that the City Council "provided approval to sell the property" in a closed session meeting on Sept. 24, 2019.
In contrast, Moreno said on Dec. 20, 2019, it was the first time the Council had ever discussed the merits of a stadium site sale and that Anaheim City Attorney Robert Fabela ensured that the Brown Act was followed in closed session.
"This is the first public discussion — the first discussion I should say — that the City Council has actually had on the actual deal points," Moreno said at the Dec. 20, 2019, public meeting.
"Because in closed session, the city attorney was very good in making sure we focused on the price and terms of payment per the Brown Act," Moreno said. "So this is the first time we've had a chance to discuss, deliberate, understand fully together in public — actually just with each other — the major deal points here. And that's why my thinking right now is, OK, what are we binding ourselves to today? Because it's our first discussion … . So my understanding of what we're voting on truly today from staff is we're agreeing to sell the land first and foremost, and we've not had that discussion, colleagues."
You can see video of Moreno's comments from the meeting here.
The declaration, and a similar declaration from Chris Zapata, Anaheim's former city manager who left in April 2020, are the main points of support for the lawsuit's allegations.
The conflicting statements undermine the merits of the lawsuit, according to Anaheim's brief.
"Put simply," the brief states, "Petitioner's case relies on demonstrably false testimony, among its other factual and legal shortcomings. For these and other reasons forth herein, Petitioner's request for relief should be denied in its entirety."
You can read the city's full brief here.
The city's plan for the future of baseball in Anaheim calls for Angels Baseball to stay here for another 30-plus years, for Anaheim to sell Angel Stadium and to see development of surrounding parking lots to bring new revenue for public safety, community services, neighborhood improvements and city obligations.
A purchase and sale agreement for the stadium site was approved following extensive public input and debate on Dec. 20, 2019, and at a second meeting that spanned the evening of Sept. 29, 2020, and early morning hours of Sept. 30, 2020.
You can learn more about the city's plan for the stadium site at Anaheim.net/BigA.