Anaheim Investigator

Archive for the category “Belinda Escobosa-Helzer”

Businessman Boasted To Anaheim Police Chief He Will Fund The Law Enforcement Accountability Network

Gennaco Taormina Faessal II

Michael Gennaco, William Taormina, and Stephen Faessel sitting together at the June 25th “Garden Party Fundraiser” for the Law Enforcement Accountability Network, an ACLU-backed group run by Theresa Smith.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

William Taormina boasted to Police Chief Raul Quezada and Deputy Chief Julian Harvey that he intended to support the ACLU-backed Law Enforcement Accountability Network “financially and with my time,” according to an email the Anaheim Investigator obtained from the Anaheim Police Department through a California Public Records Act request filed back in August.

The email in question, dated Wednesday, June 28, 2017, was sent out by Taormina to Quezada and Harvey three days after he made a $1,000 donation to LEAN at their June 25th “Garden Party Fundraiser,” held at the Villa Park home of Belinda Escobosa-Helzer, former Director of the Orange County office of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

“Dear Raul and Julian,” Taormina began:

Over this last weekend, I attended a garden party held in honor of Teresa [sic] Smith’s son, Caesar Cruz. The party was meant to raise money for the new organization that Teresa started known as LEAN (Law Enforcement Accountability Network). The party was a success with about 50 attendees including both Councilmen Steve Faessel and Jose Moreno. I intend to support this organization financially and with my time because I believe it is going to be a positive relationship builder between our law enforcement community and the folks that are presently less supportive of us. We need to keep building bridges and Teresa is an excellent spokesperson for her side of the equation.

In the same email, Taormina also urged Quezada to appoint Yesenia Rojas, a resident of Anna Drive, a working-class neighborhood in Central Anaheim, to his advisory board saying “she is all about the underserved, the youth, and quality of life in our neighborhoods, especially hers….”

“Thank you for you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you. It is an honor to serve alongside you both,” he concluded.

A copy of the email can be downloaded here.

Who is William Taormina?

As the Investigator previously reported, William Taormina is a wealthy real estate developer who serves on the advisory board of Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada. He has been on this body since September 2005 when former Police Chief John Welter created it “as a vehicle to advise and counsel him on matters affecting public safety and to act as a sounding board for police/community relations.”

Before William started dabbling in real estate full-time, both he and his brother Vincent ran Taormina Industries Inc., a solid-waste disposal company founded by their father in 1948. According to the Los Angeles Times, the privately held firm was a $100 million operation that served more than one million curbside customers in Anaheim, Brea, Garden Grove, Placentia, Villa Park, Yorba Linda and Colton.

In 1997, Taormina Industries merged into Republic Industries Inc., a trash hauling company then-controlled by H. Wayne Huizenga, a multi-billionaire, in a deal worth about $250 million in stock. “Brothers William and Vincent Taormina will receive 6.5 million shares [from Republic] and will operate the Anaheim company as a separate unit under its own name,” the Times reported.

Over the past thirty years, Taormina has been a major player in Anaheim city politics, pouring tens of thousands of dollars of cash into the campaigns of candidates and elected officials, both Democrat and Republican alike.

Taormina has also donated generously to many local charities and non-profits. He is  the founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Anaheim Community Foundation, an organization that not only has provided financial support for many different senior and youth programs, but has been responsible for managing tens of thousands of dollars in funds for Kash for K-9’s, Cops 4 Kids, and other projects supported by the Anaheim Police Department.

Despite his presence at the ACLU fundraiser, Taormina is no liberal. Back in 2012, Taormina and his family, both directly and through businesses under their control, gave $5,250 in campaign contributions to a city council candidate by the name of Steven Chavez Lodge, an ex-Santa Ana Police detective, who had been sued multiple times in state and federal courts for alleged “police brutality.” Later that same year, the Register quoted him as asking then-Police Chief Welter why there wasn’t a “blanket [gang] injunction” on the entire City of Anaheim to fight crime. The LA Weekly reported in 2014 that Taormina successfully pressured the MUZEO Museum and Cultural Center to cancel a “graffiti” art exhibit featuring the works of prominent Mexican muralists.

For more about the June 25th “Garden Party Fundraiser” for LEAN, please click here.

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ACLU-Backed ‘Anti-Police Activist’ Group Got Tickets Worth $2,108 From Anaheim Mayor, Councilmen

Smith & Faessel

Theresa Smith, the “anti-police activist” founder of LEAN, with Stephen Faessel, an Anaheim City Councilman, who was elected to his seat with $17,389 worth of support from the Anaheim Police Association.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

On Thursday, June 29, 2017, an article entitled, “Councilman Moreno Honored By Anaheim Police Critics,” was posted on the Anaheim Blog, a right-wing website run by Matthew Cunningham, a well-connected public relations consultant, by a person who uses the pseudonym, Anaheim Insider.

Insider, a regular contributor to that blog, reported about a special event which took place earlier that week where Anaheim City Councilman Jose Moreno, who represents the Third District, received an award from a group characterized as being started by “anti-police activists.”

“This past weekend,” Insider wrote, “Moreno was awarded the Public Service Award by the Law Enforcement Accountability Network, or LEAN“:

LEAN was started by local anti-police activists who frequent Anaheim City Council meetings to criticize the police in the harshest, over-the-top terms. It is ‘fiscally sponsored’ by the ACLU. Despite the group’s soft-pedaled official ‘we want to improve policing’ rhetoric, the people behind it view the police as violent, anti-Latino trigger-happy thugs and are in the bait of denouncing officer-involved shootings as ‘murders.’

In an attempt to prove his point, Insider zeroed in on comments one attendee made on her Facebook page, claiming she “helped organize the protest” in the Palais neighborhood “that predictably degenerated into a riot, leading to ‘protesters’ vandalizing the home of an elderly couple of breaking car windows.”

“This is the spirit of LEAN supporters, and they’ve let us know that Jose F. Moreno is their kind of councilmember,” Insider said.

But a two-month investigation by the Anaheim Investigator has uncovered dozens of photographs, emails, and other evidence, some of it obtained from the City of Anaheim through California Public Records Act requests, suggesting Insider’s account of this event was not only inaccurate, but misleading. Contrary to Insider’s assertion that “LEAN supporters” were people who “view the police as violent, anti-Latino trigger-happy thugs,” photos show that several prominent Anaheim politicians and businessmen, all of whom have close ties to law enforcement, attended this function.

The Investigator has learned the aforementioned event Insider made reference to was a June 25th “Garden Party Fundraiser” for LEAN, a non-profit organization founded by Theresa Smith, whose son, Caesar Cruz, was shot to death by Anaheim Police in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart in 2009.

A copy of an email invitation dated Monday, June 19, 2017 sent out by LEAN to Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait states the venue for this function was the Villa Park home of Belinda Escobosa-Helzer, former Director for the Orange County office of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

Smith & Moreno

Smith with Councilman Moreno.

Photos clearly show Moreno was present, but he wasn’t the only politician there. Another attendee was Stephen Faessel, an Anaheim City Councilman who was elected to his Fifth District seat in 2016 with $15,488.80 worth of support from the Anaheim Police Officer’s Association Independent Expenditure Committee. A careful review of California Form 460 paperwork the “Faessel for City Council 2016” committee filed with the City Clerk shows the Anaheim Police Association PAC also gave his campaign $1,900 in cash.

Other photos show Michael Gennaco, a former trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, who runs the OIR Group, a Playa Del Rey law firm that has a $125,000 a year contract with the City of Anaheim to provide auditing services for the Anaheim Police Department.

Smith & Gennaco

Smith with Michael Gennaco.

One notable person that attended was William Taormina, a wealthy real estate developer, who serves on the advisory board of Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada. He is also Chairman Emeritus of the Anaheim Community Foundation, a non-profit which has managed tens of thousands of dollars in funds for Kash for K-9’s, Cops 4 Kids, and other programs supported by the Anaheim Police Department.

The Investigator has confirmed that Taormina wrote out a $1,000 check to LEAN at their June 25th fundraiser–a huge amount of money, especially since James Gilliam, Deputy Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California, boasted on Facebook: “We helped [Smith] raise almost $4,000 this afternoon.”

Bill Taormina behind Smith in Plaid Shirt

William Taormina (in the plaid shirt) sitting behind Smith.

But the biggest donor to LEAN, however, was not Taormina: it was the City of Anaheim. Emails, letters, and documents the Investigator obtained under Public Records Act requests show that Mayor Tait and Councilmen Faessel and Moreno collectively donated sports tickets worth $2,108. According to a California Form 802, “Agency Report of Ceremonial Role Events and Ticket/Pass Distributions,” Tait gave LEAN four “suite” tickets at Angels Stadium for a baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Oakland Athletics. The tickets were valued at $225 each, or $900 total. Another Form 802 shows Moreno also gave LEAN four “suite” tickets at Angels Stadium also worth $900, but for a different game. As for Faessel, his contribution was much smaller, but still significant. A Form 802 reports he donated four “suite” tickets at the Honda Center for a “P&G Gymnastics Championship,” valued at $77 each, or $308 total, a fact later verified via email by Crystal Norman, his former Senior Policy Aide.

The Investigator has learned all of the sports tickets LEAN received from the Mayor and the Councilmen were put up for “silent auction” during the fundraiser. But the winning bidders didn’t receive the actual tickets that day. Instead, they were given a form letter printed on official City of Anaheim stationery, each signed by Tait, Faessal, or Moreno, that entitled the bearer to contact the Office of the Mayor and City Council to make arrangements to pick up the tickets they won. “Enjoy and thank you for supporting LEAN,” all of them said.

A copy of Tait’s letter is below:

Tait Letter re LEAN

All together, the Investigator calculates that Tait, Faessal, Moreno, and Taormina, made donations to LEAN worth a whopping $3,108. Of the estimated 50 people in attendance at the June 25th “Garden Party Fundraiser,” nobody contributed as much to the financial success of this benefit as did these four men.

But all of this begs the following question: Why are members of Anaheim’s political and business elite, all of whom have close ties to law enforcement, showering LEAN with gifts and money?

Stay tuned …

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