Anaheim: Throw out this lawsuit over stadium sale. Judge: No.
The Anaheim City Council is expected to approve a development deal for the Angel Stadium property within three weeks, but with a legal cloud hanging over the project.
An Orange County Superior Court judge Monday denied the city’s request to throw out a lawsuit alleging impropriety in the sale of the property.
Judge David Hoffer said he would meet with attorneys Sept. 29 to consider a trial date, as well as the scope of evidence to be gathered in advance of the potential trial. Kelly Aviles, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, said a trial probably would not start until next year at the earliest.
Jared Walsh is in the midst of a major breakthrough at the plate, showing he’s capable of potentially taking over Albert Pujols’ role at first base.
The city projects the sale will close sometime next year, but the purchase agreement allows Angels owner Arte Moreno and his development company to walk away from the deal so long as litigation is active. Marie Garvey, the spokeswoman for Moreno, said the company is looking forward to moving ahead with upcoming City Council hearings.
The City Council last December approved a $325-million sale of the 150-acre stadium site; a development agreement this month reduced the cash price to $150 million in exchange for the inclusion of close to 500 units of affordable housing and a seven-acre park.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of a citizen group called the People’s Homeless Task Force, seeks to invalidate the purchase agreement on the grounds the city failed to comply with state public transparency laws.
Aviles said the group has no objection to a deal debated in public. However, she said, the city has declined to provide negotiating records that she said are subject to public disclosure.
“If it’s a good deal, then give us the information that shows why,” Aviles said.
Thomas Brown, the attorney representing the city, said Anaheim had complied with the law and said negotiating can be done behind closed doors before a deal is discussed publicly.
“Nobody does real property negotiations in open session,” Brown said. “That’s just nonsense.”
In his ruling, Hoffer did not address the merits of the case but said the city would have to defend its position “based on the facts, not on what the defendant City elected to put in agenda reports.”
Angels slugger Albert Pujols tied Willie Mays for the fifth-most home runs in MLB history with his 660th career homer in a 5-3 win over the Rockies.
In court, Hoffer noted that agenda reports had listed the buyer as the Angels when in fact it was Moreno’s newly formed development company, SRB Management. At the December meeting at which the council approved the deal, city negotiators said they did not know the identity of anyone in SRB except Moreno, who since has called it a family company.
Hoffer also chided city attorneys for asking the court to strike 35 segments of the plaintiffs’ 27-page complaint.
“The motion is to be used sparingly,” Hoffer wrote, “not as a line-item veto.”
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