The sale of $500 million worth of city land to Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno for $150 million may be close to being official, but it still faces a pesky lawsuit charging that the whole deal is illegal because the city council held initial talks in secret, in violation of the state’s Brown Act requiring open meetings. The suit was first filed back in March, and got a boost yesterday when a judge rejected a motion by the team to dismiss the case, and instead started court hearings.
The suit looks like it’s going to come down to what constitutes a “legislative body”: The Anaheim city council deferred negotiations to a three-member group consisting of the mayor, city manager, and city attorney, which met with Angels execs behind closed doors. The council, according to Voice of OC, later held two closed-door meetings of its own before its single public meeting to vote on the plan, which the lawsuit calls a “rubber stamp” and which, yeah, pretty much.
It would be extremely unusual for an approved stadium deal to be overturned by a lawsuit this late in the game — if nothing else, sports team owners can usually afford excellent lawyers to tell them what’s legal, and then to convince judges of the same — but certainly not impossible. The hardest part may be timing: The trial isn’t expected to begin until next year, which is also when the sale agreement is expected to close, so barring a restraining order, the horse could be out of the barn before a judge can shut the door, and that’s before you even get into the inevitable appeals.
Meanwhile, a recall campaign against Mayor Harry Sidhu looks to be gearing up again after launching back in February and then immediately being put on hold thanks to the pandemic; that would be extremely precedented, since quite a few elected officials have now had their walking papers handed to them for approving sports subsidy deals. (Number of mayors who’ve been booted for refusing to provide subsidies and then seeing a team move: zero.) It’s tough to gauge support for a protest movement based on a couple of Facebook posts — it currently has 241 Likes, which doesn’t seem like a lot in a city of 350,000 — but you gotta like its listing as “Always Open.” Unlike the stadium negotiations, amirite?