Cristina Talley, Anaheim's Former City Attorney, Not the Crusader Yaktivists Make Her Out to Be

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Cristina Talley
The 'Rally for Talley' held outside the steps of Anaheim City Hall last week was the latest public display of support for former city attorney Cristina Talley. Since then, there's been a raging debate in the blogopshere as to the circumstances surrounding her sudden, forced resignation during the January 29 city council meeting.

Rally organizers cried foul and the press release for the event claimed she was ousted by the council majority for advising against the controversial $158 million GardenWalk hotel tax giveaway. Her supporters also insist that Talley was of the opinion that the city was in violation of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA), an allegation made in an ACLU lawsuit claiming Latino political disenfranchisement via an at-large electoral system. And because Talley had that stance, Anaheim's city council pushed her out.

"All I know is that I got that from very, very good reliable sources," rally organizer Joanne Sosa relayed in an interview on-site.

"We feel that they have their agenda," Sosa added later, referring to the council majority that yaktivists insist pushed Talley out for being a virtuous Adelita. "It's the Disney agenda. It's business as usual."

Better yet, Talley is Latina, or a Lawtina to be more exact! That spices things up even more on the question of district elections. Not since Married With Children's hilarious reporter Miranda Veracruz de la Hoya Cardenal has so many sudden Spanish names been trotted out in succession. Talley was no longer Talley. She was Cristina Lourdes Sierra Montes Talley!

But a crusader? Hardly.

Worth noting is an exchange between then-Councilman Harry Sidhu and then-City Attorney Talley during a March 6, 2012 city council meeting regarding the $158 million giveaway. Opponents of the deal had just lawyered up and filed a lawsuit alleging, among other things, that a Brown Act violation had occurred.

"Madame City Attorney was there any Brown Act violation here?" Sidhu inquired pompously during the meeting.

"We do not believe that the council violated in any manner the Brown Act in connection with this January 24th decision," Talley responded. If she had previously advised councilmembers to the contrary, she made no such assertion as a matter of public record. Months later, an Orange County Superior Court judge ruled in December that a violation of the Brown Act had indeed occurred.

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Gabriel San Román / OC Weekly
Council district lawsuit plaintiff Amin David at the Rally for Talley

"We heard that there's a lot of emails and a lot of things that have been purged and destroyed," Sosa offered as a response to the question about the Sidhu-Talley exchange."I think there's going to be a lot more to the story."

On the subsidy side of things, there is, indeed, more from that same meeting. Mayor Tait wanted to put forth an initiative during discussion of the issue that would rescind the GardenWalk hotel project agreement. Talley responded by noting the numerous legal challenges that could result from doing so, and Tait's push went nowhere. Hardly Dolores Huerta!

As to the question of the ACLU lawsuit, its latest court documents, obtained by the Weekly,  were filed two weeks before she was pressured into resigning and tell a different story. They show she was supervising an active legal battle against the plaintiffs, including Rally for Talley participant Amin David and Anaheim City School District trustee (and #28 on our Scariest People list last year) Jose Moreno.

On August 2 last year, Talley publicly reported during a closed session that she had retained two private firms to fight the lawsuit with a unanimous vote of council. Talley would assume a "supervisory oversight role," according to the city, while the other firms would handle the "day to day" litigation. And Talley's team is fighting the ACLU suit with all they got. In the latest Orange County Superior Court responses, filed on January 16, 2013, Team Talley denied that racially-polarized voting is equitable to vote dilution and discrimination. They also described as a "red herring" the notion put forth by the ACLU that without the CVRA, Anaheim would be free to discriminate against minority voters.

With all this, if the former city attorney expressed private concerns with the GardenWalk subsidy vote, she publicly stated after the fact that it wasn't in violation of the Brown Act. If Talley believed the city was discriminating against Latino voters, she sure didn't mind supervising an entrenched legal battle in opposition to that position.

The cost of the litigation for Anaheim at the year's end, by the way? $287,000 and counting...

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