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Harry Sidhu anaheim mayor resigns, scandal sizeable donation toward his re-election

Anaheim Mayor Resigns as F.B.I. Investigates Angel Stadium Deal.

Mayor Harry Sidhu has not been charged with anything, but a federal agent has said that he gave confidential information in order to get $1 million for his campaign.

Mayor Harry Sidhu of Anaheim, California, resigned on Monday because of a federal public corruption investigation into the sale of Angel Stadium. The investigation is looking into whether business leaders in the state's 10th largest city had too much power.

Mr. Sidhu, a Republican who was elected in 2018 to lead the city of almost 350,000 people in Southern California, has not been accused of doing anything wrong. But papers that supported a federal search warrant said that he was working against the city's interests when he was negotiating the sale of the Major League Baseball stadium for $320 million to the owner of the Los Angeles Angels, the team that plays there.

In an affidavit filed this month, F.B.I. special agent Brian Adkins said that Mr. Sidhu gave the team at least two pieces of confidential information in exchange for a "sizeable" donation to his re-election campaign this year. The affidavit didn't show that Mr. Sidhu had asked for this kind of donation, but it did mention secretly recorded conversations in which the mayor talked about plans to ask the Angels for "at least" $1 million in campaign help.

Harry Sidhu anaheim mayor resigns, scandal sizeable donation toward his re-election
During a parade in February, Mayor Harry Sidhu of Anaheim, California.

In a statement, Mr. Sidhu's lawyer said that wasn't true.

Paul S. Meyer, the mayor's lawyer, said, "A fair and thorough investigation will show that Mayor Harry Sidhu did not leak secret information." He also said that the mayor "never asked for a political campaign contribution that had anything to do with the negotiation process." He said that the mayor's decision to step down on Tuesday was made "to do what's best for Anaheim."

The rest of the City Council asked Mr. Sidhu to step down last week.

Mr. Sidhu, a former city councilman, is the second Anaheim politician to resign this week because of the investigation. The investigation seems to have gotten more serious after 2019, when the F.B.I. arrested a local political consultant on charges of trying to bribe a public official.

Melahat Rafiei, the consultant, also worked on a city commission and was an officer in the state Democratic Party. She was also a member of the Democratic National Committee. She quit those jobs over the weekend and said on social media that she was also not guilty of anything wrong.

In the end, the charges against Ms. Rafiei were dropped. According to the social media post and the federal affidavit, she then went to work as a confidential informant for the F.B.I. She wore a wire during meetings with Southern California city officials as part of a federal investigation into a group of local officials, business leaders, and political operatives who had political power in Anaheim.

In the post on social media, she said she wanted to "find out about corruption among Republican operatives."

The former head of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce has also been caught up in the investigation. Last week, the executive, Todd Ament, was charged with lying to a mortgage lender about his assets in order to get a loan to buy a vacation home with money from the chamber.

Mike Lyster, a spokesman for the city of Anaheim, said that the City Council will meet on Tuesday to talk about the future of the stadium deal. This is an issue that raises bigger questions about the future of a city like Anaheim, which is known for tourist attractions like Disneyland and professional sports teams.

Mr. Lyster said that the stadium the city owns now is old and is known for its big red "A" with a halo around it. The stadium is surrounded by a sea of concrete, which used to be a parking lot that the Angels' owner, Arte Moreno, wanted to turn into homes, restaurants, hotels, and shops.

The investigation could make the deal harder to close. In December, officials in California decided that the sale broke a state law that says local governments should use extra land for affordable housing first. Last month, Anaheim and the state agreed that the city would pay a $96 million fine to settle the issue. But since then, Attorney General Rob Bonta has asked a judge to put a hold on the resolution.

Mr. Lyster said that if the deal falls through, it could affect whether or not the Angels stay in Anaheim.

"Is this going to be a break? Will this start over?" Mr. Lyster said. "This is the kind of leadership we need from our City Council."


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