Sign Truth, Taking August Off And More Boondoggle News
Friday afternoon I had a chance to speak with Jennifer Muir, Communications Director for the Orange County Employee's Association, to try to get a clarification on the issue of the disappearing "Cancel the Layoffs" signs and the allegations that an armed private investigator hired by the OCEA was going door-to-door, harassing young student athletes and their families.
MANY SIGNS STOLEN OR DESTROYED
First, some background. It is a fact that there have been hundreds of "Cancel The Layoffs" signs placed around the city in the past several weeks. Some of those have been placed in the public right-of-way within the city while others have been placed in lawns of private citizens. It is also a fact that many of those signs have been removed and/or damaged.
SIGNS STORED SEPARATELY TO AVOID DISTRACTIONS
The previous week I spoke with Chief of Code Enforcement for the City of Costa Mesa, Willa Bowens-Killeen, about the signs. She advised me that those signs illegally placed in the public right-of-way were removed by members of Code Enforcement and placed in a secure room on the 2nd floor of City Hall awaiting the owners to pay the fine - $15.00 - and reclaim them. I asked her why they were not stored with other confiscated illegal signs in the Corporate Yard and was told that stacks of the "Cancel The Layoffs" signs at the Corporate Yard would prove to be a distraction to the employees who work there, so the decision was made to store them at City Hall.
"INTIMIDATION?" - NO, ACCORDING TO WILLA
When I expressed the view that holding the signs at City Hall might be a form of intimidation for folks who might wish to reclaim them, she told me that, regardless where the signs are stored, individuals wishing to reclaim the signs would first be required to visit City Hall and pay the fine. She also opined that most of the signs will probably not be reclaimed because they cost about a third of the cost of the fine - it would be cheaper to make more signs than to reclaim those that had been confiscated.
THOSE PLACING THE SIGNS KNOW THE RULES
According to Muir, the folks who are placing the signs fully understand the legal placement issues and are charged with removing signs from the public right-of-way at the end of the weekend. They also understand that signs on private property that are not within a prescribed distance of certain public buildings may remain there indefinitely. Her concern is primarily with the signs on private property that have been removed or vandalized.
Apparently the OCEA has received dozens of telephone calls from concerned residents who reported their "Cancel The Layoffs" signs were being destroyed or repeatedly stolen. According to Muir, the OCEA felt they had four courses of action available to them to deal with this serious, expensive issue.
1) They could have ignored the reports, but felt that was not a practical option because they wanted the vandalism to stop.
2) They could have gone to the police, but they just wanted the vandalism to stop, not to get anyone in trouble. So, they rejected that option immediately.
3) They could have privately appealed to the City Council to intervene, but their recent experience with the council led them to believe that approach would be fruitless.
4) The final option, which they chose, was to discreetly follow-up on the reports themselves, in an attempt to stop the vandalism while, at the same time, keeping the matter private and avoiding any negative legal repercussions to those who may have been responsible.
NO GUN, NO HARASSMENT
Muir told me that the OCEA did, in fact, engage an experienced and professional private investigator to follow-up on a rumors and reports they had received about the thefts and vandalism. During the course of his investigation he left his business card at a number of homes and spoke with several members of the community, including one parent of an Estancia High School football player. She also told me that the investigator spoke very briefly to a teenage member of the football team who answered the door at his home. The investigator reported that the conversation was casual, polite and respectful and lasted about a minute. And, contrary to inflammatory rumors going around town, the investigator WAS NOT carrying a gun. Muir told me he did not interrogate or intimidate the young man or anyone else.
RIGHEIMER'S PUBLIC ACCUSATION
Let me pause here to remind you that Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, speaking on the dais Tuesday, August 2nd, accused the Costa Mesa City Employee's Association of hiring a "gun-toting private investigator" - a blatant perpetuation of a fabrication. You can view that piece of his rant in the clip below:
WHERE ARE THE COMPLAINTS?
To the best of my knowledge - and I've been following this story closely - no member of the public has come forward to say that they actually saw a gun on the investigator. No complaints to the police have been made public about any threats or intimidation by the investigator. Nor have I seen any public pronouncements by members of the OCEA or the CMCEA specifically accusing members of the Estancia High School football team of this vandalism.
COUNCIL MEMBERS USING "KIDS" AS PAWNS
I do know that Jennifer Muir and her colleagues at the OCEA are unhappy about what they feel are false accusations and the complaints vocalized by council members that the "kids should be off limits". She is especially concerned because it was those council members who brought the young men into this situation by enlisting them in campaign activities - something I've commented on here recently, too.
WHO IS LYING?
I don't know what the truth of this matter is. Unless members of the community who had interaction with the investigator step forward to testify to their personal observations - not spreading unsubstantiated rumors - we may never get to the bottom of it. If the investigator was not carrying a gun, then for members of the City Council to spread that falsehood throughout the community is, at the very least, inflammatory and irresponsible. Unless he can provide unimpeachable evidence that the investigator was carrying a gun during his investigation, Righeimer owes the OCEA and it's membership an apology for his public statement last Tuesday. If he does provide that proof, then I expect an apology from Muir to me and to the community, as well.
COUNCIL TAKES AUGUST OFF
Although there has been no press release announcing it, in last Friday's E-Briefing from CEO Tom Hatch there was a note about the City Council Study Session, scheduled for Tuesday, August 9th, being canceled. I checked the City web site and found a similar note. So, our "overworked and underpaid" City Council will have almost the entire month of August off - five weeks straight before they must appear on the dais. Their next regularly scheduled meeting is the day after the Labor Day holiday, Tuesday, September 6th.
A MIXED MESSAGE? DO YOU THINK!?
But, wait a minute! Didn't Righeimer just chastise the President of the Costa Mesa City Employee's Association, Helen Nenedal, from the dais last Tuesday because "her employees" have so many days off each year? Yes, by golly, I think he did. He specifically referenced sick days and vacation days - as if the employees shouldn't be permitted either of those benefits. How does this square with the council now taking more than a month off? Are they all going to be working the Eric Bever part time, part time schedule now?
MORE BOONDOGGLE NEWS
And, of course, from a previous post we all know that Righeimer is off on a week-long junket to China in 10 days - to the magical city of Ordos. Well, "magical" because it's a brand new city and nobody lives or works there! Just what we need - a sister city with no residents! A tip of the hat to reader "Max", who provided us with some links about this debacle. You can read about Ordos HERE and HERE and see a fascinating video clip below. It sure seems like a curious place to go half-way around the world to develop business, doesn't it?
A "DANA" IN TRAINING? LOOKS LIKE IT
So, what's the real reason for this trip? Is Righeimer taking his family along? Is he going to try to single-handedly solve our debt-with-China issue in a week? Does our trainee President know he's going off on one of those "Dana Rohrabacher" kind of trips? You know, like the one where he joined up with the Taliban in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Come to think of it, didn't Righeimer join his pal, Dana, on just such a junket not too long ago? Sure does look like he's building up his "foreign policy" credibility to pad his resume for a near-future run for a Congressional seat. Maybe the Mayan calendar is accurate, because this sure looks like one sign of the apocalypse. I guess we'll see.