A prominent California attorney has alleged that members of the Anaheim City Council violated state law when they voted on behalf of a $158 million hotel subsidy, after accepting contributions from a PAC tied to the project’s developer. Attorney Cory Briggs urged California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas to prosecute the council members in a letter sent Thursday. Briggs’ request for prosecution was made on the behalf of a community organization, Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development, and a private Anaheim resident named in the letter.
The letter alleges that Anaheim City Council members Lucille Kring and Jordan Brandman had an illegal conflict of interest when they voted for the Garden Walk Hotel subsidy in May, within months of accepting donations from the political action committee formed by Support Our Anaheim Resort (SOAR.) Hotelier Bill O’Connell, who benefited from that subsidy, sits on the SOAR Advisory Committee. The letter also names council members Gail Eastman and Kris Murray, who voted in favor of the subsidy and are SOAR Advisory Committee members. Eastman and Murray did not disclose their business relationships with SOAR and O’Connell at the time of the vote, as required by law.
The request for prosecution issued by Briggs is a required legal step before the filing of a private lawsuit. A potential filing would result in another in a recent series of lawsuits faced by the city council on behalf of residents. Last month, a judge ordered a trial in a case brought by the ACLU on behalf of Anaheim voters, alleging that the city’s election system violates the California Equal Voting Rights Act.
The Garden walk subsidy caused controversy, even before the allegations made last week. The subsidy was first passed in January 2012, but that vote was voided after a Superior Court Judge ruled that it violated the Brown Act, California’s open government law, because the public did not receive proper notice.