‘Den of vampiric fat cats’ could cost one California city millions in lawsuit

Todd Ament, former CEO of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, at an event in 2011. (Fiel photo by MARK RIGHTMIRE, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER)

Todd Ament, former CEO of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, at an event in 2011. (File photo by MARK RIGHTMIRE, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER) 

It was a tragically banal slice of vicious, small-time power brokering. Just a speck in the elaborate web of scandal that seized Anaheim city government, to be sure, but a textbook case of how two-bit tyranny can strangle a righteous American Dream.

Yes, the saga of Isa Bahu and his family’s gas station reads like a bad dime store novel. But it could cost Anaheim millions nonetheless.

A lawsuit filed against the city and former Anaheim Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Todd Ament seeks redress for years of inexplicable blockades, wrought by “a den of vampiric fat cats that have used increasingly sophisticated methods to usurp the municipal apparatus for their own pecuniary gain,” writes attorney Steven D. Baric with absolutely delicious flourish.

“Former members of the City Council and the Mayor’s Office have sold their votes, influence, contracts, voice and have conspired with Mr. Ament to both attempt to extort money from Mr. Bahu and to maintain an illegal monopoly interest through the municipal machinery.”

Former Mayor Harry Sidhu — who pleaded guilty to several felonies — conspired with others to hide information, conceal and destroy evidence and silence and intimidate witnesses, all under the color of California law, the suit maintains. And the suit alleges that Ament, who pleaded guilty to several counts of fraud, shamelessly tried to shake the family down.

The result for everyday folks in Anaheim Hills? Years of higher gas prices. Here’s what happened, according to the lawsuit and the investigative report ordered and paid for by the city itself.

A Shell station on the corner of La Palma Avenue and Imperial Highway in Anaheim, CA, on Tuesday, August 1, 2023. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG) 

Back in 1967, on the corner of La Palma and Imperial in Anaheim Hills, Isa Bahu’s father opened an Arco station. It was the only one on that corner. It did well.

But Orange County grew, and roads needed widening, and old gas stations needed environmental cleanup. There was eminent domain and legal wrangling and the Bahu’s Arco station was torn down in 2003 and scrubbed. City officials assured the Bahu family that it would be able to rebuild, eventually.

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Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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