An FBI affidavit released last week identified a popular company and one of its employees in the "cabal" influencing the Anaheim city government. LA Times reported that a source close to the investigation revealed it might be Disneyland and its Resort Director of External Affairs Carrie Nocella.
As a part of the federal public corruption investigation, the affidavit was written by FBI Special Agent Brian Adkins in support of a criminal complaint accusing the former head of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, Todd Ament, of lying to a mortgage lender, according to LA Times.
According to Adkins, Ament and an unnamed political consultant were, "the ring leaders" of a small group which met in person to discuss strategy on various Anaheim matters that were either "often pending or soon to be pending" before the City Council.
The identity of the unnamed political consultant is being linked to Jeff Flint, chief executive and senior partner at FSB Public Affairs, who has also represented Disneyland Resort. Denying the allegations, Flint announced last week that he was taking a leave of absence as CEO.
The affidavit mentions that Nocella was involved in scripting a statement of an elected official for a City Council meeting on March 23 last year. The script was addressing an item that would sanction $210 million in bonds for reparations of revenue losses due to the pandemic.
Along with this, she was also identified for providing inputs to Ament on the list of invitees for a secret Anaheim kingmaker's meeting in December 2020. The statement also highlighted that Nocella might be one of the ring leaders.
Marked as "Retreat 12/2020," the event was to be held at the JW Marriott in Anaheim from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with a "social hour to follow upon conclusion."
The 99-page affidavit included a transcript from a wiretapped phone call on Nov. 30, 2020, between the political consultant and an Anaheim elected official referred to as "Elected Official 1." Conversing about the meeting, the politician was inquiring about the invitation of two other colleagues.
In one such similar call, Ament was caught referring to the group as a "cabal." As per the conversation the organizers insisted on only inviting people whom they can trust, "family members only" in simpler words.
When the investigation came to light, a few Anaheim political figures publicly acknowledged to have attended the meeting, these included City Councilmen Stephen Faessel and Trevor O'Neil as well as City Manager Jim Vanderpool, as per WDW news.
"As I remember, the major focus of this meeting was on how to get our economy back open, our residents back to work, the distribution of essential products," Councilman Faessel said.
Explaining his attendance at the event, Faessel expressed his disappointment with the representation of the meeting, adding further that the agenda for the meeting was the perfect topic of discussion in the current scenario.
Addressing the mention in the affidavit, Disney also released a statement. "We have seen media reports of the complaint and no authorities have reached out to us about it," the company said. Nocella was also approached for comments but she declined and deleted her accounts on Facebook and Instagram last week.
Disney and Nocella have also been linked to the resignation of Harry Sidhu as Anaheim mayor on Monday, as another affidavit purported that he leaked confidential information related to the Angels Stadium sale with an aim to receive a million-dollar campaign donation.
This is not the first time Disney was caught in the middle of Anaheim politics, the company on numerous occasions has taken center stage, influencing the city's political framework for its advantage.
According to some present and ex council members, past mayor and local activists the resort has had a say in the profit generating tax breaks and has even generously funded politicians with campaign donations. All of this, is done behind the argument that the resort exists as an important "economic engine" and is a major source of employment.