Anaheim Investigator

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Anaheim First Director of Community Engagement is Daughter of Union Boss With Ties to Mayor, Chamber

This image remains the exclusive copyright property of the creator. No rights are granted unless written contracts are in place.At the March 5th “State of the City” Address, Mayor Harry Sidhu shakes hands with Xochitl Medrano, while her father, Ernesto Medrano, looks on.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

The Anaheim Investigator is in possession of evidence which now confirms that Xochitl Medrano, Director of Community Engagement for Anaheim First, a shady 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce to promote its interests, is the daughter of Ernesto Medrano, a member of the Anaheim First Advisory Council in District 5.

Up until now, Xochitl has been elusive when confronted with questions about her family ties to a certain Anaheim First member with the same last name. Back in May, when Gabriel San Roman of the OC Weekly first broached the issue, he reported she “didn’t address questions as to whether she’s the daughter by the same name of Anaheim First advisory council member Ernesto Medrano.”

But based on a careful review of dozens of photographs, screenshots of messages posted on social media, and various public records, the Investigator has determined that there is more than enough court-worthy evidence available to conclude that Xochitl is in fact Ernesto’s daughter.

Xotchil MedranoXochitl speaking at a WAND meeting.

Registered to vote in Whittier

Furthermore, the Investigator has evidence suggesting that at the time Xochitl became an Anaheim First director, she has never been an Anaheim resident, calling into question a claim she made at a June 12th meeting of the West Anaheim Neighborhood Development Council saying the reason why she joined this group was because “actual residents” invited her to become a part of it.

In reply to a question posed to Xochitl about how she “was asked to be involved” with Anaheim First, she offered a rambling response:

I was approached by actual residents and some of them come from District 5, and I also was approached by other residents from District 4 and they were talking about this group, and they just wanted to know more about it; and I also got to see the State of the City from the mayor. I watched that presentation and I was really interested to learn more about what it really takes to understand civic engagement and how it is not the same as political engagement.

But it would have been somewhat difficult for “actual residents” of any these districts to have “approached” her in person because public records make it clear she has never lived in Anaheim. For example, the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters database shows that Xochitl was–and still is–registered to vote at a home in the City of Whittier, in a neighborhood more than sixteen miles away.

One “actual resident” Xochitl was acquainted with, however, is her father, Ernesto, who is a resident of District 5. The Investigator obtained a photograph of her standing near him while shaking hands with Mayor Harry Sidhu at the March 5th “State of the City” Address at the City National Grove. A month after this encounter, she began boasting on Facebook that she “started a new job” with Anaheim First.

Who is Ernesto Medrano?

Ernesto Medrano is a “Business Representative” for the LA/OC Building & Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, an “umbrella group representing 48 local unions and district councils in 14 trades” consisting of “more than 100,000 skilled men and women.” In return for project labor agreements, these unions champion giving developers millions of dollars in tax rebates to build four-diamond luxury hotels.

Last year, Medrano was a key spokesperson for the “No on Measure L” campaign, a political committee set up by the Anaheim Chamber to oppose a successful ballot initiative that raised wages for workers employed by taxpayer-subsidized hotels in the Anaheim Resort area. Documents filed with the city clerk show this committee received most of its funding from big hotel developers.

Medrano - Ament - OConnellErnesto Medrano, Todd Ament, and William O’Connell pose for the camera at a “No on Measure L” press conference in 2018.

Hundreds of photographs reviewed by the Investigator show Medrano was a “special guest” at Mayor Sidhu’s “Victory Party” at his four-acre Anaheim Hills estate last December. Other persons also in attendance were Todd Ament, CEO of the Anaheim Chamber, William O’Connell, developer of the JW Marriot hotel, and Jordan Brandman, a Councilman and close friend of Medrano.

In a recent cover story, the OC Weekly reported that between July 2018 and June 2019, Medrano received “36 tickets from resort-friendly council members, mostly to Angel games, tallying a total face value of $6,980.” But it doesn’t stop there: The Investigator has evidence some of these same “resort-friendly” politicians have showered him with thousands of dollars worth of tickets in previous years as well.

Friends of Ament and Sidhu

It should be no surprise to anybody that Ernesto Medrano’s daughter ended up as a director for Anaheim First. Through his work as a spokesperson with the  “No on Measure L” committee, he formed close ties with Ament, who not only is CEO of the Anaheim Chamber, but he is one of the founders of Anaheim First and serves on its Board of Directors. Ament is in a position to decide who gets hired by that entity.

Nobody should be shocked to learn that former Councilwoman Kris Murray and Leslie Swan are also employed in key positions with Anaheim First. Besides the fact both of them are known political operatives, they have been friends with Ament for years through their affiliation with the Anaheim Hills Community Council, whose non-profit he controls. And like Medrano, both of them have ties to Sidhu.

Conclusion

As the Investigator did with our article revealing Murray’s hidden role with Anaheim First, we believe exposing these relationships not only helps underscore the political nature of this group, but to show how fraudulent it is. The Anaheim Chamber is trying to dupe people into thinking this is a “grassroots organization,” when in reality, it is a private club of mostly Sidhu lackeys handpicked to promote their agenda.

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Chain of Emails Strongly Suggest Former Councilwoman Kris Murray is a Paid Consultant for Anaheim First

Murray Sidhu CastroKris Murray with Mayor-elect Harry Sidhu and Amelia Castro (now a member of Anaheim First’s Board of Directors) at the Disneyland Hotel in 2018.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

A chain of emails the Anaheim Investigator recently obtained from the City of Anaheim during a routine California Public Records Act request strongly suggest that Kris Murray, a former Anaheim City Councilwoman, is working as a paid consultant for Anaheim First, a shadowy 501(c)3 nonprofit group created by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce to promote its interests.

The first email in the chain, written by Xochitl Medrano, Director of Community Engagement for Anaheim First, consists of a message “reaching out” to David Belmer, Director of the Planning and Building Department, “on behalf of Leslie Swan and Kris Murray with Anaheim First,” inviting him to speak to their members later that month at the Chamber’s office near Angel Stadium.

It is reproduced here in its entirety:

From: Xochitl Medrano <xochitl@anaheimfirst.com>
Sent: Monday, June 10, 2019 12:10 PM
To: David Belmer <DBelmer@anaheim.net>
Cc: Leslie <Leslie@AnaheimFirst.com>
Subject: Inviting you to speak again to Anaheim First members

David,

I tried leaving you a voicemail on your office line but I wanted to make sure you also have my email. My name is Xochitl Medrano and I am reaching out to you on behalf of Leslie Swan and Kris Murray with Anaheim First.

We would love for you to speak again to Anaheim First members at our Onboarding meetings to talk about how the city’s Planning & Building Department operates and what residents should know about zoning. We are hoping you are available on June 19th and June 26th (both at 5:30 pm at the Chamber).

If you can let us know at your earliest convenience that would be most helpful. Also, if you cannot attend and would be able to send someone that would be great too!

Thank you.

-Xochitl

Xochitl Medrano.
Director, Community Engagement
ANAHEI’M FIRST

2099 S. State College
Anaheim, CA 92806
https://anaheimfirst.org/

In response, Belmer told Xochitl:

Hi Xochitl. I am out of town at a family reunion on the 19th but available on June 26. Does it work if I only attend on the 26th?

The next day, Leslie Swan, Director of Anaheim First, jumped in by sending out an email graciously thanking Belmer for “accepting to speak to the Anaheim First Neighborhood Leadership Council on June 26th.” But Swan then quietly added Murray to the discussion, using the email address of her political consulting firm, KLM Strategies:

From: Leslie Swan <leslie@anaheimfirst.com>
Sent: Tuesday, June 11, 2019 11:05 AM
To: David Belmer <DBelmer@anaheim.net>; Xochitl Medrano <xochitl@anaheimfirst.com>; Kris
Murray <kris@klmstrategies.com>
Subject: Re: Inviting you to speak again to Anaheim First members

Hi David, thank you for accepting to speak to the Anaheim First Neighborhood Leadership Council on June 26th. These are additional members, 10 for each district. We offered two dates for convenience purposes. Since we are splitting up the group in two sessions is there anyone in your office that could walk through the presentation you shared with us last September and Q and A’s? In our meeting here with the consultants, there was mention that many community members do not understand zoning and planning. We thought your presentation to Anaheim First Advisory Board in September is one that is on point with the process of the upcoming assessment. If you could assist us with someone from your office on the 19th it would be greatly appreciated. We are looking to have the meeting here at the Chamber 2099 S. State College Blvd. Suite 650, Anaheim at 5:30 pm. If there is any change on the location we will reach out to you. Enjoy your family reunion!

Respectfully,

Leslie Swan
Director Anaheim First
714-675-2044
2099 S. State College

Anaheim, CA 92806

A copy of the entire chain of emails can be downloaded here.

What role Murray has played in Anaheim First has been the subject of widespread speculation for several months now. Hundreds of photos reviewed by the Investigator clearly show Murray has been a visible presence at their secret meetings, including one held at the Anaheim Convention Center on March 13th where she was seated next to Councilman Jordan Brandman.

naheim First-Convention Center--(3-13-19)Mayor Sidhu speaks to members of Anaheim First during a secret meeting at the Convention Center while Brandman eats a salad and Murray snaps photos.

The emails the Investigator uncovered not only reveal that Murray’s involvement in Anaheim First is much deeper than what is publicly known, but they underscore the political nature of this group. Murray and Swan are friends of Mayor Sidhu. So is Xochitl‘s father, Ernesto Medrano. In fact, all three were guests at Sidhu’s victory party at his Anaheim Hills estate last December.

For matter of record, the Investigator sent two emails to Anaheim First asking for more information about Murray’s work for their group.

The following questions were posed:

Is she an employee or independent contractor? How much compensation is she getting? Is she being paid a regular salary? Or a flat fee?

A similar message was sent to Murray at the email address she uses for KLM Strategies.

But so far, they haven’t responded.

Phony As A Three Dollar Bill: How The City Of Anaheim Will Create A Fake Police Oversight Committee

OIR Group IIAfter months of foot-dragging, city officials decided to outsource their police oversight committee to the Office of Independent Review, already a paid contractor for the Anaheim Police Department.

By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher

As the Anaheim Investigator reported last month, the Tuesday, June 18th vote by Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait and the rest of the City Council to unanimously approve an amended agreement with the Office of Independent Reviewa Los Angeles-based law firm run by Michael Gennaco, to drastically “expand the scope of services” it offers the city, signaled the death knell for any genuine police oversight in this town. The 5-0 vote, which was done quietly and without much discussion, essentially paved the way to make OIR a de facto “oversight body” for the Anaheim Police Department.

Although Tait told the Anaheim Investigator he “still want[s] a civilian review commission,” it is our opinion that if the mayor really supported police accountability, his decision to vote in favor of the amended agreement at the June 18th meeting sent a mixed message. All of the evidence we’ve collected so far suggests Gennaco’s law firm now lies at the foundation–or already is–the “oversight body” the City of Anaheim has been talking about forming. Any discussion about creating a “commission” now not only is too little, too late, but a smokescreen to divert attention away from the fact the fix is in.

In respect to evidence backing this claim, all one needs to do is look at what is going on in a neighboring city. Last May, the Anaheim Investigator filed a California Public Records Act request with the Fullerton Police Department and unearthed an email attachment Gennaco sent to Police Chief Dan Hughes on Wednesday, January 30th, 2013. In it, Gennaco proposed his law firm become the “outside independent oversight entity” for that city’s law enforcement agency. The language he uses is similar to text contained in letters sent to Anaheim City Attorneys in 2009 and April of this year

It appears one major difference between what was outlined in the attachment Gennaco sent to Hughes in late January and the text of those letters is the language used to describe his law firm’s services. The City of Anaheim has embarked on a strategy of building its “oversight body” in a piecemeal, incremental fashion. By keeping quiet about what it has been doing and omitting language describing OIR as an “outside independent oversight entity,” the council swiftly made it an “oversight body” right beneath everybody’s noses. The purpose of this: to keep residents who favor real police oversight in the dark so as not to arouse opposition.

Further proof of the key role OIR is playing in this matter can be found in the brief dialogue that took place at the June 18th meeting between Tait and then-Interim City Manager Marcie Edwards. When Tait told Edwards the vote on the amended agreement provided him with “an opportunity to bring up the idea of a citizen review commission that we talked about several months ago,” she responded by making it perfectly clear that OIR–not city staff–will be making recommendations about this in a report it is expected to submit to the Anaheim City Council “maybe a month to six weeks from now.”

The exchange was as follows:

TAIT: Item 14, I pulled that. This is … umm … city attorney approve the first amendment to agreement with Michael Gennaco, etc., increasing the not to exceed contract to the amount of $85,000 extending the scope of attorney services. This is Office of Independent Review. Umm … I support this. It’s a good … it gives me an opportunity to bring up the idea of a citizen review commission that we talked about several months ago. So I’d like to … I know the City Manager is interim, but I’d like to encourage the city to move forward with its recommendation … umm …  soon. So … Madame City Manager?

EDWARDS: Thank you sir. Umm …  one of the items that we have been waiting on, just for your information, is a report from the OIR that has recommendations … that is going to contain recommendations that ultimately we’ll be able to release publicly. I asked informally as to when they thought that might be produced and I was given an estimate of maybe a month to six weeks from now. So I wanted to share that with you.

TAIT: Very good.

At this time, the Anaheim Investigator cannot predict what kinds of recommendations OIR will present in the future. But what we do know, however, is when Gennaco attended a Fullerton City Council study session earlier this year to deliver a presentation about “oversight bodies,” he downplayed “citizen review commissions” in favor of the “auditor model” of  police oversight–a service his own law firm offers. Nevertheless, even if he recommends that a “commission” be created, we suspect it will be rigged to be weak, toothless, and ineffective. Why? Because the groundwork to have the city control it through OIR has been established.

First, the text of the letter Gennaco sent to then-Interim City Attorney Michael Houston on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 emphasizes that the latter’s office–not OIR–will make the final determination of which “critical incident cases” involving the Anaheim Police Department are “reviewed” by that law firm. So if a “citizen review commission” is eventually formed–with OIR running it–it will only be allowed to look into those cases the City Attorney wants them to examine and nothing more. That means the “commission” won’t be permitted to investigate any matters on its own, effectively tying its hands.

Second, the City of Anaheim has the power to determine who OIR releases its information to, placing it in a position to withhold information from a “citizen review commission.” Earlier this year, the Anaheim Investigator obtained a copy of the original agreement that then-City Attorney Cristina Talley negotiated with Gennaco’s law firm in 2009. This agreement, which was not altered significantly by the recently amended agreement, makes it perfectly clear that OIR is a law firm hired by the city to defend its interests and that all of its work is considered “confidential attorney-client communications and attorney work-product material”:

[A]ll internal observations, determinations, notes or other applicable material made by OIR Group in the performance of this Agreement are and shall be considered confidential attorney-client communications and attorney work-product material and subject to the appropriate claims of privilege. With the exception of any final public reports, all communications and reports to the City, including the City Attorney and the Anaheim Police Department, shall be made or submitted on a confidential basis. OIR Group agrees that no documents prepared or assembled by it under this Agreement shall be made available to any individual or organization without prior written approval of the City, unless required by law.

Third, OIR not only has no authority whatsoever to conduct independent investigations into complaints against alleged police misconduct, but it doesn’t have any subpoena power to compel witnesses to testify or produce documents. All it does is have its staff of highly paid attorneys “audit” or review case files prepared by the cops themselves to determine if an officer’s actions were in compliance with the law. That being said, a “citizen review commission” dependent on this law firm for information would spend much of its time reading reports containing “facts” Gennaco’s attorneys gleaned from police files.

And finally, OIR is funded by the Anaheim Police Department. Financial records the Anaheim Investigator obtained in a California Public Records Act request filed back in March show they have received $24,510 from them since 2008. Multiple invoices submitted by this law firm have scribbled notations and markings which make it clear they are funded out of the police budget, not the city’s general fund. Whereas we don’t feel Gennaco’s law firm is as deeply compromised by this relationship as OC Human Relations is, the fact an “oversight body” is accepting money from a law enforcement agency it oversees is problematic.

In conclusion, the June 18th vote was a pivotal moment in the so-called “debate” that has been taking place in Anaheim over the creation of a police oversight committee. After months of foot-dragging, city officials finally decided to outsource it to OIR, already a paid contractor for the Anaheim Police Department. This makes a mockery of their claim of wanting “independent” police oversight. That Kerry Condon, president of the Anaheim Police Association, has repeatedly made statements expressing unwavering support for this type of “oversight body” shows how weak it really is.

And if the Anaheim Investigator is correct in its analysis, any “citizen review commission” created now will be as phony as a three dollar bill. But we doubt such a “commission” will ever come into existence. We suspect that when this matter comes back to council, there will be a round of political kabuki theater: Kris Murray, along with her colleagues, will point out we don’t need one because we have OIR; and Tait, although he’ll argue in favor of  it, will be on the “losing” side. Although most people that night will only see a lopsided 4-1 vote against it, few will understand that on June 18th, in a 5-0 vote, both Murray and Tait voted to kill it, by backing OIR.

[Below are electronic reproductions of some of the documents referred to in this article. Click on them to enlarge.] 

Michael Gennaco Email to Dan Hughes 1 of 2

Gennaco to Fullerton Police Chief Dan Hughes, Wednesday, January 30, 2013 (1 of 2)

Michael Gennaco Email to Dan Hughes 2 of 2

Gennaco to Fullerton Police Chief Dan Hughes, Wednesday, January 30, 2013  (2 of 2) 

Letter 2009 agreement 1 of 2

Gennaco to Anaheim City Attorney Talley, August 16, 2009 (1 of 2)

Letter 2009 agreement 2 of 2

Gennaco to Anaheim City Attorney Talley, August 16, 2009 (2 of 2) 

Gennaco to Houston Letter 1 of 1

Gennaco to then-Interim Anaheim City Attorney Houston, April 24, 2013 (1 of 1) 

OIR 2009 agreement 1 of 9

OIR Group agreement with Anaheim, August 25, 2009, Page 1 (1 of 3)

OIR 2009 agreement 6 of 9

OIR Group agreement with Anaheim, August 25, 2009, Page 6 (2 of 3)

OIR 2009 agreement 7 of 9

OIR Group agreement with Anaheim, August 25, 2009, Page 7 (3 of 3)

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