Will The Tail Wag The Dog In Anaheim?

The Anaheim City Council is ground zero in a remarkable campaign by a city contractor to cow the elected councilmembers into submitting to its demands for a 100% increase in its project budget – in defiance of the explicit direction of the council.

In the wake of public revelations of an FBI probe into the Angel Stadium deal that sparked the resignation of Mayor Harry Sidhu, the city hired the JL Group in August 2022 to conduct an investigation into contracting and lobbying practices in connection to the now-canceled stadium deal and other city contracting matters going back ten years.

JL Group was the low bidder and promised to complete the investigation for $750,000.

By January of this year, JL Group had burned through the $750,000 and was less than halfway through the 200-person list of interviewees they had compiled. The 8-person firm – whose principal investigators are charging $350 an hour (and $250 for drive-time to and from interviews). Keep in mind those “witnesses” included council gadflies who traffic in rumor, conspiracy, and speculation.

Most of the current council were not in office when the contract was awarded and were naturally taken aback by JL Group’s request to double their budget. At it’s February 7 meeting, the city council directed JL Group to come back with a narrowed scope of work and an estimate of how much it would cost to complete the investigation under the new scope.

JL Group and their overseer, Judge Clay Smith, expressed their misgivings but agreed to follow the council’s direction.

Since then, they have changed course and are refusing to follow their client’s direction.

JL Group and Judge Smith promised the city council they’d return with a narrowed scope and budget request. Now, they are telling the council to pound sand and resuming their demands for doubling their contracted budget to $1.5 million.

When asked by councilmembers on February 7 how many people they had interviewed, JL Group refused to provide an exact number – claiming it would compromise their investigation. However, while stonewalling their client, JL Group told the Voice of OC they have “interviewed more than 60 people.”

In effect, JL Group and Judge Smith are effectively telling the mayor and city council to pound sand and collaborating with the Voice of OC in waging a thinly veiled public opinion campaign aimed at intimidating the city council into giving in to the JL Group’s demands for another three-quarters of a million dollars.

The Voice of OC, for its part, has abandoned any pretense of journalistic detachment or objectivity, and made itself the media arm of a concerted lobbying effort by a special interest coalition composed of UNITE-HERE Local 11, OCCORD, OCCCO to manipulate a city contract for political ends – a lobbying effort with which JL Group and Judge Smith are obviously colluding.

It’s no mystery why UNITE-HERE Local 11/DPOC coalition is beating the drums for giving JL Group a blank check. This is about power. For them, the investigation is a kind of mini-Cultural Revolution to root out or silence those who aren’t on board with their policy program – and it’s on the taxpayers’ dime instead of their own. Hence the eerily totalitarian rhetoric from former Councilman Jose F. Moreno declaring the necessity of investigating everyone in order to exonerate them – turning the presumption of innocent on its head. Since when do the innocent need to be exonerated?

This raises the question of who is in charge? The elected city council? Or consultants hired by the city council?

This is a situation of the tail trying to wag the dog. The JL Group is playing a game of chicken with the city council and openly disregarding the explicit direction of their client in an open, unembarrassed and unprofessional attempt to leverage another $750,000 in taxpayer dollars.

Every other firm that bid on the contract last year proposed budgets approximately twice that of JL Group, which now appears to have low-balled their bid. Last year’s council acted in an environment of moral panic, fostered in large part by Moreno and his political and media allies.

By contrast, when Democratic political consultant Melahat Rafiei pled guilty to FBI charges of attempting to actually bribe Irvine City Councilmembers, the council declined to follow Anaheim’s example and instead opted to first let the FBI investigations run their course.

Contrary to the hyperventilating by JL Group, the Voice of OC and its labor allies, the Anaheim City Council has not directed JL Group to abandon its investigation. Nor have they ruled out spending more money to complete the investigation. What they did was rightly exercise their lawful, fiduciary duty by reining in a consultant team that was mismanaging the project they were contracted to complete. Councilmembers appropriately questioned the necessity of giving another $750,000 to a consultant team that had failed to complete the job for the promised $750,000.

If any party if guilty of compromising this investigation, it is JL Group and Judge Smith via their open politicking and unprofessional attempts to manipulate city hall.


  1. Wow! Who is on the Board of The Voice Of OC? Why is the JL Group sharing their, The City’s, investigation with The Voice of OC ? I thought the Voice of OC was non partisan per their website. I wonder if all of JL Groups clients know about this?

    • I get confused when people say “partisan” or “non partisan” in Anaheim, Sergio. What Parties do you believe are operative in this town?

  2. Apparently the tail wagged the dog.

  3. “…a concerted lobbying effort by a special interest coalition composed of UNITE-HERE Local 11, OCCORD, OCCCO to manipulate a city contract for political ends…”

    That’s a list of your longtime bugbears, Matt. Believe me, UNITE-HERE Local 11 and OCCCO were nowhere to be found, nor were the DPOC or their chief Ada. The “concerted lobbying effort” was from OCCORD, the Anaheim Democrats Club, and the People’s Homeless Task Force. THOSE are the people you should be worried about now!

    Anyway I don’t know what’s even so “political” about wanting a full investigation into Anaheim corruption – ANYONE could be caught up!

    • Matthew Cunningham

      OCCORD is an arm of Local 11. The People’s Homeless Task Force and the Anaheim Democrats Club means the same people, just different gift wrapping.

      Don’t be naïve. This is entirely political. It’s hard to accord credibility to JL Group when they spend 3 hours interviewing you – a trafficker in rumor and speculation – as if you’re a legitimate source. Judge Smith’s objections to Natalie Rubalcava’s accurately calling their media campaign a shakedown shows him to be either naïve or disingenuous. Interesting that neither Love nor Johnson spoke up to dispute Rubalcava’s characterizations.

      It’s ironic that the firm charged with investigating (in part) whether inappropriate political lobbying/influencing was used in city contracting did exactly that – engaged in a bald attempt to leverage the council politically in order to double their budget. They decided to play chicken with the city council, and the council blinked.

      • “OCCORD is an arm of Local 11.” I’d encourage you to update your research on this because it is inaccurate.”

        • Matthew Cunningham

          Fred, I took your suggestion and as you suggest, it turns out UNITE-HERE Local 11 and OCCORD no longer appear to be tied at the hip. OCCORD was founded by Local 11. Erik Altman, its founding exec. director who served in that post until several years ago, was a Local 11 senior organizer. Local 11 was a core funder of OCCORD through at least 2021, according to Labor Dept. records. OCCORD and UNITE-HERE had offices next to each other in Garden Grove, and Ada Briceno was a long-time member of its board of directors.

          OCCORD is now located in that office center in Santa Ana where progressive non-profits congregate, and Briceno is no longer on their board of directors. Sources on the Democrat side of the aisle confirm there’s been something of a divorce.

    • At least the shills at Voice of OC glancingly admitted the “residents” who spoke were turned out by OCCORD.

      More than that, they were scripted and directed by OCCORD. And the OCCORD translator sure took liberties with his translations.

      Good for Natalie Rubalcava and Jose Diaz for calling out JL Group for their (successful as it turned out) shakedown.

      • I shared this concern so reached out to OCCORD with feedback about that to ensure residents are more accurately interpreted and helped with the issues they communicate.

    • It’s really sad to see how OCCORD exploits these immigrant workers, even their children, for political purposes.

  4. TheVOC has ZERO integrity.

    After The Publisher, Norberto Santana learned Vern Nelson told Cuban born.Anahiem Councilmember Jose Diaz he was “RETARDED” and began to call him Rickey Retado, Santana who is of Cuban desent claimed that was permissible because Diaz was “anti-communist” and that he was a boat person.

    Real progressive.


  5. I am waiting for Vern and Donna’s testimony. I wonder if the brought in Droopy and GUNZ from Donna’s gang AVLS.

  6. Vern,

    I can ASSURE you, that after receiving a dossier on the “legendary rebel activist/blogger/musician”, complete with your and Donna (and Joey’s) criminal records, Transcripts of the TWITTER fiasco, Donna’s twitter handle and selected quotes (I think there were 56) which were mostly derogatory, including for published instances of you calling Jose Diaz a RETARD. Plus some not so favorable descriptions by your fellow OC Bloggers THE JL Group will not take the Nelsons seriously.

    It was suggested that contact the victim of your alleged sexual assault as well.

    Your checkered past outweighs your inflated imagination/ego.

  7. Anaheim INVADED

    If one were to look at the OCCORD website. You would see of the “STAFF” and officers that bear an incredible resemblance to five of the speakers at Tuesday nights council meeting.

    Moreover, at least TWO of these five live in Santa Ana and are aligned with Liberal ‘agitators” there. NO RELATIONSHIP to Anaheim whatsoever. Who wrote those talking points and who provided them?

    If one were to DIVE deep into what this charade is, you would find a handful of concerned (rightfully so) Anaheim residents (and I include Vern and Donna Nelson, along with Cecil and Brian Kaye in that “Crazy Cabal”, Fred did you bring meds??? EXTRA for Diamond please).

    Speaking of Greg Diamond, he speaks with the wisdom and authority of Donna Ascevedo Nelson and she looks better in her rags than Green plaid????? He should have done a GOFUNDME to attend his brothers funeral instead.

    Lastly, approximately 70 people submitted or publicly spoke on the contract extension, even a Claremont College flunky could do the math that’s .0001643% of the population! THIS IS NOT A PEOPLES victory.

    I suggest we ask Cecil to speak for Vern, Donna, Greg Wes, Dr. Moreno, Cynthia Ward and the others. At least he and the CLUE lady were cognizant.

    • Haha, sorry I’m not allowed to dispense anything, but I would like to say that at the heart of the talking points are very real concerns by myself and many of your other West Anaheim neighbors. We’ve unfortunately got some folks with some shortcomings who’ve also got a love for spotlights, but I’d like you all to know I’m committed to respectful, logical, rational dialogue for the common good and am not afraid to tell folks I’ve worked with on these actions, that their immature outbursts and personal hangups make for poor advocacy and do more harm than good. Although we tend to work towards the same objectives, the unstable folks around town don’t like me much anymore. Vern has been the exception, my personal experience with him has been great. As a Christian, I will not judge him based on things I have not experienced personally but as with all my neighbors, just pray for growth. Residents such as myself appreciate the importance of all perspectives, businesses big and small making us the amazing city we are. We work towards balance. Even though I have not personally been given a full seat at their table, my focus has been improving the quality of the coalition’s advocacy and have been advocating for a more authentic approach so thank you all for validating my concerns here.

      • So there you have it, Fred just called Vern unstable! Truer words have never been spoken.

        But, again, what would the “Christian” Mr. Sigala say if someone sent his wife a sexually explicit message while his young child was dying? AND then posted her picture on the web with the caption that Vern was performing sex cts to her picture.

        Answer me that Fred.

        • I’m learning there are lots of unstable people in this town just like anywhere else. As soon as instability reveals itself to me I try to distance myself from it. I have personally confirmed a few of the names on your “list” as people I want nothing to do with anymore, but they are still my neighbors, I don’t judge or hate them. I’m curious how I ended up on your “list,” was it just guilt by association or something specific I did/said? You should at the very least try to understand that my experience is typical of residents who newly awaken to the issues in this city. As soon as someone in that group sees you, they try to bring you under their umbrella and try to associate you with their own organizations. Once your opinions begin to veer in any way from theirs, they begin to attack or shun you. Vern is clearly said to have an awful past, but I worked with him because ironically, he was also one of the only people around trying to do good. I would never try to defend anyone, he can defend himself, but he knows I’m the kind of person who wouldn’t tolerate that kind of behavior. I also wouldn’t judge anyone unless I’ve seen evidence that they pose a threat to my family. I try to give courtesy here as well and in all honesty, you seem angry and like you’ve maybe personally been wronged. I hope you understand however that to take your accusations seriously, I would need to know who you are and what the evidence is. I’d like to give the benefit of the doubt, but it’s hard to take anonymous accounts seriously. Email me if you’d like. If you wish confidentiality, you have my word I’d honor that for whatever that’s worth to you. Either way, I wish you well whoever you are.

          • Six Days later you sing songs with him.
            Got it!

            • Not sure who you are or what you got, but whatever it was, I hope you take the time to try and understand I have no personal issues with Vern and based on attendance, neither do lots of other folks in our city. Sorry I wasn’t clear enough about that in my previous posts when I tried to explain it to someone else who seems to hate me because I work with him, but hey, you be well.

              • Fred,,
                I think you are misguided. If you know Verns past and still associate with him, you arejust another Anaheim loser like Fitzgerald.

                Fred’s blind allegiance to the Nelson’s is akin to allowing Hitler to stay in office because he provided healthcare to little girl.

                How can you possibly coexist with these animals??

                I guess in your view RAPE is acceptable

  8. Oh my. I just saw Greg Diamond at the city council meeting. What a gas bag.

    He makes Cecil look like a genius. Oh and Cynthia Ward, where do these people come from?

    I am pretty sure that Vern and Greg couldn’t qualify for a prepaid MASTERCARD.

  9. You people seem unhappy.

    • These people look like one pathetic dude on a mindless rant using a bunch of different names. It’s rather sad that he is permitted to do it, but this site seems amenable to this as part of a deflection from real issues.

      • Anaheim INVADED

        Dennis, I agree 100% These CRAZY people have names:

        Vern Nelson
        Donna Ascevedo Nelson
        Wes Jones
        Fred Sigala
        Greg Diamond
        Brian Kaye
        Mark Daniels
        Jeaninie Robbins
        Mike Robbins
        Daisy Chavez
        Marisol Ramirez
        David Zenger
        Jose Moreno


        Dennis, I am near certain YOU never sang a song at a city council meeting nor have you had a puppet show.

        These are disturbed people that represent .0001364% of Anaheim residents.

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