In July 2023, the JL Group completed its nearly year-long investigation into alleged corruption within Anaheim’s City government. As requested by the City, the resulting 350-page report included policy recommendations that would promote increased transparency and decrease potential future corruption.
At that time, the City Council voted to provide unredacted copies of the JL Group Report to the FBI, the California State Legislature, and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, allowing all levels of government to evaluate the possibility of criminal prosecution and scrutiny.
They have also begun reviewing and implementing measures at the local level. The following is a list of actions taken by the Anaheim City Council in response to the Report.
City Council Implementation Schedule of JL Group Recommendations
August 15, 2023 – the City Council directed staff to explore and return with “options to strengthen the City’s policies on items proposed by Mayor Ashleigh Aitken” as recommended in the JL Group Report.
August 29, 2023- the City Council adopted a schedule to consider and implement these identified issue recommendations:
- Lobbying Policy
- Information Technology (IT) Policy
- Public Records Request (PRA) Compliance
- Ticket Disclosure Policy
- Ethics/Public Affairs Officer (Ombudsman)
- Whistleblower Protection Policy
- Campaign Finance Reform
- Partnerships with Non-Profits, Advocacy, and Business Groups
- City Manager Signing Authority
Visit Anaheim & Anaheim Chamber of Commerce – $1.5 Million transfer of Covid Funds
The City has agreed to issue a formal demand to Visit Anaheim and the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce to provide an accounting for and return of the $1.5 million that appeared to be fraudulently obtained during the COVID-19 pandemic (as was discovered and reported by the JL Group). The City Attorney’s Office has issued such a demand to Visit Anaheim for the return of those funds.
Visit Anaheim CEO Jay Burress resigned his position soon thereafter.
The City Council is awaiting further action until the California Legislature’s audit of Visit Anaheim and the Chamber has been completed (likely by the end of February 2024). The City Council is allegedly already in possession of a draft of the final audit report.
Ticket Disclosure Policy
September 26, 2023: the City Council decided not to alter or clarify the Ticket Disclosure Policy but voted to include a more user-friendly searchable database for FPPC 802 forms which document ticket behests to individuals. They also voted to include a log of individual recipients from non-profit organizations who receive tickets.
IT Policy Reform
October 26, 2023: the City Council directed staff to prepare modifications to the Information Technology Policy for council vote. The Council has not yet voted on a final IT Policy revision/update.
City Manager Contract Signing Authority
October 23, 2023: the City Council declined to reduce the City Manager’s contract signing authority from $200,000 to $100,000. It was previously raised to $200,000 under Mayor Sidhu.
Lobbying Reform – Council Posting Calendars
November 7, 2023: To provide more transparency regarding lobbyists with whom they meet, the City Council voted to publicly post their monthly calendars and specifically include all meetings with lobbyists. This will include all participants in attendance and topics of discussion. The ordinance will also include the City Manager and Assistant City Manager.
Ethics Officer (Ombudsman)
December 12, 2023: the City Council authorized the City Manager to conduct an “Ethics Officer Job Classification Study.” The ethics officer could presumably assist with the City’s compliance with Public Records Act requests, Campaign finance laws, the City’s Lobbying Ordinance, and the City’s Fraud Hotline.
The City Council has reviewed the existing Lobbying Policy over several months and considered potential changes. On November 29, 2023, the Council approved the following changes:
- “In-house lobbyists” are required to register with the City
- Provides a more specific definition of “lobbying,”
- Outside paid negotiators working for employee bargaining groups during MOU negotiations are excluded from registering as lobbyists
- More proactive auditing of lobbyist activity by the City Auditor
- Limit the ban on hiring lobbyists to one year and restrict it to council aides.
NOTE: It was noted that despite the concerns regarding the Lobbying Ordinance, it does not appear that either the City Attorney or the City Council have taken action concerning any of the potential Lobbying Ordinance violations documented in the JL Group Report. Currently, prosecutors are investigating and addressing potential criminal conduct identified in the Report at the federal (FBI), state (California Legislature), and local (OCDA) levels. It is not known if the City of Anaheim has plans to address the potential crimes/violations identified at the municipal level.