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Saturday, Dec 3, 2022
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OCBJ INSIDER

It's Company A-Town

It’s been a bad stretch for mega-projects proposed for OC, due to expected and unexpected developments.

Expected: The May 12 rejection of Poseidon Water’s $1.4B desalinization plant in Huntington Beach by the California Coastal Commission. It was a unanimous decision to deny a Coastal Development Permit for the proposed project along PCH, despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s endorsement and a severe drought.

Unexpected: last week’s bombshell revelations about current (as of last Friday) Anaheim Mayor Henry Sidhu, former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce head Todd Ament and others involving, in part, negotiations over the future of the Angels in the city, the sale of the land to the team, and development of the land around the ballpark.

The fate of the 150 acres of stadium land could be in limbo for some time, depending on the direction and scope the federal probe takes. The value of the land—which Sidhu negotiated to be sold for $320M—could well go up significantly if the plan is reworked, given rising values for residential land.

A May 16 criminal complaint filed by the government pertaining to the Anaheim case includes details referring to an unnamed political consultant at a national firm whose clients “include an influential company located in Anaheim,” which court documents simply refer to as “Company A.”

Company A’s influence was cited during a March 2021 city council hearing pertaining to a new bond measure. An employee of that company, Ament and the consultant helped script language used by an unnamed council member during the meeting, and, the complaint alleges, used their influence to delete reference to “Company A’s parking lot” in the potentially contentious bond matter.

It’s not known whether that reference pertains to the massive parking garage near Disneyland, which the city built a couple decades ago and leases to Disney for a modest amount, the expansive parking lot surrounding the baseball stadium, or a different parking lot.

The LA Times last week cited FSB Public AffairsJeff Flint as one political consultant who was referred to anonymously in the federal complaints.

“Flint has represented Angels owner Arte Moreno and Disneyland Resort,” the May 19 LA Times story said. Flint said in a statement provided to the Times that “I have no hesitation in saying that I firmly believe I did nothing wrong nor illegal.”

In wasn’t just Anaheim caught up in the dragnet.

The 102-page federal complaint against Ament alleges that in 2018 a political consultant had come up with a scheme “with the intention of paying bribes to two elected members of the Irvine City Council in exchange for the Council Members performing official acts, resulting in the passage of favorable cannabis laws.”

Democratic leader and cannabis consultant Melahat Rafiei last week said she was that unnamed consultant, and was one of the FBI’s cooperating witnesses in the multiyear case involving corruption in Anaheim.

She denies the federal allegations about the Irvine case, and notes that the charges have been dismissed.

The FBI didn’t disclose whether the Irvine plan moved beyond the planning phase, and didn’t say who the targeted city council members were.

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Mark Mueller
Mark Mueller
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Orange County Business Journal, one of the premier regional business newspapers in the country. He’s the fifth person to hold the editor’s position in the paper’s long history. He oversees a staff of about 15 people. The OCBJ is considered a must-read for area business executives. The print edition of the paper is the primary source of local news for most of the Business Journal’s subscribers, which includes most of OC’s major corporate and community players. Mark’s been with the paper since 2005, and long served as the real estate reporter for the paper, breaking hundreds of commercial and residential real estate stories. He took on the editor’s position in 2018.
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