The City of Anaheim has filed its response to a gadfly group’s lawsuit claiming the manner in which the city reached agreement to sell the Angel Stadium site to team owner Arte Moreno violated the Brown Act – and cited as evidence public comments by Councilman Jose F. Moreno – who opposed the sale – that no such violation took place.

The irony is Councilman Moreno (no relation to the Angel’s owner) comments at the December 20, 2019 city council meeting directly contradict his claims in a declaration filed on behalf of the Anaheim People’s Homeless Task Force‘s lawsuit claiming the council made the decision to sell there stadium site during closed sessions in August and September.

The agreement with the Arte Moreno-led SRB Management 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.

On December 4, the city announced it had reached agreement to sell the stadium site to SRB Management (an Arte Moreno-led partnership) for $320 million (it’s appraised value when keeping the team and a stadium) while keeping the Angels in Anaheim until at least 2050. SRB Management would be solely responsible for financing renovation of the existing stadium or building a new one.

The city council approved the agreement on December 20, 2019 following extensive public comment and debate, and at a second council meeting on Sept. 29, 2020 that went into the early hours of Sept. 30, 2020.

Contradicting his sworn  court declaration, during the December 20, 2019 council meeting Moreno stated publicly that the council was that night engaging in its first ever discussion of the merits of the stadium site sale – under which the Angels also agreed to stay in Anaheim until 2050 and to should the entire financial burden of stadium modernization or construction.

Moreno further explicitly affirmed that City Attorney Robert Fabela ensured council complied with the Brown Act during those August and September closed sessions.

“This is the first public discussion — the first discussion I should say — that the City Council has actually had on the actual deal points,” Councilman Moreno said.

“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.”

The City of Anaheim included Councilman Moreno’s December 19, 2019 comments in the response it filed today asking the court to dismiss the People’s Homeless Task Force lawsuit, contending that after two years of litigation, “claims of ‘smoking gun’ documents that have failed to materialize.”

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 states in its brief, saying 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.”

“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.”

Councilman Moreno was first elected in during Anaheim’s first council district-based elections, and for the first two years formed part of a governing majority on the council. That majority was whittled down in 2018 by Mayor Tom Tait being termed out and Councilman James Vanderbilt being defeated for re-election.

Moreno’s last remaining council ally, District 1 Councilwoman Denise Barnes, was defeated for re-election by Jose Diaz, whose political views are diametrically opposed to Moreno’s,  left-wing Chicano Studies professors. The termed-out Moreno now finds at the wrong end of a 6-1 council majority.

Moreno’s decision to file the declaration was extraordinary not in only because it entailed violating closed session laws – but it put city government in the position of having to call him out as a liar.

The next meeting of the Anaheim City Council is February 1. While the Angels deal is not on the agenda, it is likely there will be discussion of the lawsuit and Moreno’s mutually-exclusive claims about how the agreement was arrived at.