A politician allegedly said he wanted to shoot up Anaheim City Hall. Officials kept it quiet
Two years ago, an Anaheim City Council member was embroiled in a scandal over violent and misogynistic texts he wrote, which leaked to a local blog.
City leaders, expressing shock, denounced Jordan Brandman’s texts, and some residents called on him to resign. He stepped down in disgrace nearly two months later, in August 2021.
But what the city did not acknowledge at the time was that it had been aware Brandman had been acting erratically for some time. In fact, it had launched an investigation after fielding an accusation in December 2020 that he made racist and misogynistic comments and said he wanted to shoot up City Hall, according to interviews and city records obtained by The Times.
The police chief and city manager coordinated to keep secret a visit by police to Brandman’s apartment shortly after the allegation was received, text messages between the officials show.
Interviews and records provide a rare insider’s look at the influence of unelected power brokers in the city that is home to Disneyland and the Angels.
Asked if he and the city manager had tried to keep secret the police visit to Brandman’s apartment, Chief Jorge Cisneros told The Times: “When we get very influential individuals, we put those under wraps.” He added that the department nonetheless complies with the state’s public records law.
The city manager, Jim Vanderpool, declined to comment.
David Loy, legal director for the First Amendment Coalition, said it would be “extremely troubling” if city officials took steps to conceal a police visit to a council member’s apartment.
“If police are being called to the home of an elected official on allegations the elected official is acting erratically or potentially dangerously, that’s an issue of compelling public interest,” Loy said. “The public has a right to know when we’re talking about the conduct of an elected official, particularly when we’re talking about an allegation that an elected official is talking about shooting up City Hall.”
The allegations against Brandman came in a letter dated Dec. 10, 2020, to the city manager from a council aide announcing he would no longer work for Brandman. The letter alleged that a year earlier, Brandman had flown into a rage about city employees, telling another aide while yelling and sobbing that “he wanted to walk into City Hall and ‘blow people’s heads off’ because they were not complying with his directives.”
That same morning, Vanderpool exchanged a series of texts with Cisneros, the police chief, according to records obtained under the Public Records Act. In one text, the city manager provided Brandman’s address. In another, Vanderpool said he was at the site.
“Help please! Still no one here,” he wrote.
The police chief responded that “the watch commander is on the call and was going to the scene.”
Brandman told The Times that Vanderpool never spoke to him while he was there. But Brandman said he spent several hours with a lobbyist, Todd Priest, a friend, who showed up at his apartment complex.
The morning after the police visit, Vanderpool wrote in a text to Cisneros that a lieutenant had assured him the police visit would be “put into the system as unnamed person welfare check.” He added that officers “were directed to keep the interaction extremely confidential.”
In a text response, Cisneros said: “we put the call in with no info.”
Asked about his comments in the texts, Cisneros said he had forgotten what his intentions were and couldn’t speculate about what he said.
Records from an FBI probe show how business interests run the Orange County city home to Disneyland and the Angels.
Earlier this year, The Times filed two separate requests under the state’s Public Records Act for information about police visits since Jan. 1, 2020, to Brandman’s apartment. The requests included the ex-councilman’s address, not his name. One gave the address to Brandman’s apartment complex, the other his specific apartment number. In both instances, the department said that after an “exhaustive” search, the city had found no record of a police visit.
When a Times reporter informed the department that several sources had confirmed the visit, a spokesperson responded by providing a brief dispatch log showing that five units had been sent to Brandman’s apartment Dec. 10, 2020. There were no notes describing what had happened, and no police report was taken, the log said.
A police spokesperson said the department looked into how it initially failed to find the log and concluded it was the result of an “unintentional error.” He did not elaborate.
“Once the mistake was discovered, we provided those records immediately,” Sgt. Jonathan McClintock wrote in an email. “The Anaheim Police Department does not have a specific policy regarding shielding information related to interactions with high-profile persons.”
Soon after the aide sent his letter to Vanderpool in 2020, city officials commissioned an outside law firm to investigate Brandman, invoices show. City officials declined to release other records related to the investigation, citing attorney-client confidentiality.
The letter also alleged that Brandman made racist and misogynistic comments, including blaming an employee’s COVID-19 diagnosis on her “family’s ethnic heritage.”
In interviews with The Times, he initially said he didn’t recall making a comment about shooting people at City Hall, but it was “something I would have said at the time.” In a later interview, he denied making it, claiming the employee would have reported it earlier. He denied making the misogynistic and racist comments alleged in the letter.
Brandman said he was upset when Vanderpool told him the investigation would be proceeding with interviews. He said he responded with a veiled threat that he could have the city manager fired, telling Vanderpool that he “knows how to count to four” about “this and other matters.” Replacing a city manager in Anaheim requires the support of majority of the seven-member council.
Brandman said he complained to another lobbyist, Jeff Flint, about the investigation, and Flint said he’d speak to Vanderpool. Brandman said Flint later called him to say Vanderpool told him Brandman had nothing to worry about. Flint has represented the Angels and Disneyland. Flint declined to comment for this story.
Jose Moreno, who was a council member at the time, said the council was never informed about the allegations made against Brandman.
Six months after the aide’s complaint was made, text messages Brandman sent to a local activist were published on a local blog showing that he used misogynistic and violent language to describe a city councilwoman, calling her a derogatory term for women and saying he wanted to “rip her f— tits off.”
The disclosure resulted in a public uproar and helped to ramp up a recall campaign launched against Brandman. He resigned several weeks later.
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