Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Police Claim Rejected And More

Well, the good news is that the Costa Mesa City Council meeting ended really early last night!  We were out of there shortly after 8:00!  Sandy Genis hammered the meeting adjourned at precisely 8:11 p.m. - Mayor Jim Righeimer and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger had recused themselves from the last two items trailed from the Consent Calendar because both dealt with the lawsuit they've filed against the Costa Mesa Police Officers...

The bad news is that, during this abbreviated meeting, we had reaffirmed for us that our mayor may be the most vindictive partisan political hack ever to occupy a chair on the dais.  In my memory only Eric Bever showed such signs of petty, peevish and downright mean-spirited behavior, but he doesn't come close to Righeimer in that regard.  Nope... old Eric is a choir boy of perfect decorum compared to the carpetbagger who now sits on the throne.

I expected this meeting to be a brief one, and it was despite getting a late start.  When they finally called the meeting to order it was 6:15 - a little long considering they had 90 minutes to wrap up their five-item closed session.

When asked for a report out of the Closed Session contract City Attorney Tom Duarte reported on two items.  Number 4 on that agenda was the claim placed by the Costa Mesa Police Officers Association requesting that the City cover its legal fees in the lawsuit filed by Righeimer and Mensinger.  Since both men had to recuse themselves from any involvement on that issue, the remaining council members - Gary Monahan, Sandra Genis and Wendy Leece - voted unanimously to reject the claim.  Duarte also reported that the council, on a 4-1 vote, agreed to authorize litigation against Civic Center Barrio organization.  So, more litigation is in the city's future... no surprise.

During the Presentations segment the ever-vivacious Charlene Ashendorf gave a report to the Council about the success of the Scarecrow Festival - a part of the 60th Anniversary celebration.   She provided a brief history of similar events in the region's history.  Apparently the first such festival in 1938 drew over 20,000 visitors.  This year, which we're told will be the inaugural event, 32 scarecrows were fabricated and displayed.  She told us plans are already underway for the 2014 version, and referred to the rousing success of a similar event in the small Central Coast community of Cambria, where 500 scarecrows dotted the landscape during the month of October.  Kudos to all her team members for a job well done.

When the agenda turned to the Public Comments Righeimer attempted, quite ham-handedly, to explain why he, on his own initiative, recently chose to change the rules and - as a direct result - disenfranchised many people who had attended previous meetings to speak to the council only to be shut out because he arbitrarily decided to place restrictions on the number of speakers in the beginning and to trail the remainder to the end.  At the last meeting, that meant five speakers who couldn't wait until 11:30 went home without having a chance to speak to the council.  It's clear that Righeimer thinks that is the sole arbitor of who can speak and when they can speak.

Sandra Genis opined that Righeimer's action violated state and municipal law, and quoted chapter and verse to him.  He arrogantly then instructed CEO Tom Hatch to just put the issue on the agenda so they can resolve it, knowing full well he has the votes.  Poor guy, now he'll just have to deal with the bother of following the rules - not something he does very well.

The Public Comments segment began promptly at 6:30 and Righeimer named off 10 people who had turned in speaker cards.  Wendy Leece beseeched him to have the grace to permit more speakers if the first ten finished before 7:00.  And, in fact, that's what happened - thirteen speakers managed to address the council in that half hour - and most took the opportunity to criticize the new method of managing the comments segment.

Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee member Anna Vrska, who has been shut out at the last meeting twice, asked for some clarifications and offered suggestions for the change.  She was the first of nine speakers who addressed the issue during the first segment.

Senior Center Executive Director Aviva Goelman address the council on the on-going and growing problem of homeless folks infesting the grounds of the Senior Center.  It is so bad now that young children who attended church there last Sunday were approached by homeless men and threatened with razor blades if they didn't bring food for them.  Goelman told the council that many activities have shown a severe drop off in participation - like the ballroom dancing tonight, which has dropped from around 50 participants down to fewer than a dozen because of the fear of the homeless folks.

Tea Party Tom Pollitt, who had been handing out bootlicking leaflets to arriving audience members praising the council for their "accomplishments" - most of which had already been scheduled before his pals took office - rose to complain about intimidation and bullying.  I had to fight back a smile as he said that because his pals are the primary offenders of bullying.  He praised Righeimer and Mensinger for "putting their lives on the line" as they bravely lead the city.  What a load of crap!

If those guys are so traumatized by the events as they allege in their lawsuit - if they cannot earn a living, as they allege in the lawsuit - then they should step down from their council positions and permit people who are actually able to function to be seated in their places.  Anyone paying attention realizes that nothing has changed with those guys.  They continue to make boneheaded decisions - just as they did before their lawsuit - and will undoubtedly continue to do so down stream.

Resident Scott Morlan spoke about a recent meeting of Speak Up Newport at which the Newport Beach Chief of Police address the issue of the early release of state prisoners.  He apparently has hired new staff to deal specifically with that problem.  Must be nice to have a council that will agree to that kind of staff adjustments for critical issues - we here in Costa Mesa have exactly the opposite issue. We have a council majority that is so clueless about what it really takes to provide a safe city that they refuse to let the City hire more officers on a timely basis.  Morlan asked just what Costa Mesa is doing in anticipation of the increase in early-release convicts in our community.

Among the other speakers who chastised Righeimer for his abuse of the comments segment were Robin Leffler, Cindy Brenneman, Jay Humphrey, Greg Thunnell, Perry Valantine and Beth Refakes.  Each address other issues, too, but their anger was palpable on the mayor's abuse of his authority simply because he doesn't like to hear complaints from the residents of this city.

During Council Member Comments Righeimer led off by explaining that Chief Tom Gazsi has a plan for the early-release convicts and he requested a report at a future meeting.  He then, again, launched off into a tirade about why he chose to split the public comments and also to trail any "pulled" consent calendar items.  As we listened to his sputtering fusillade of rhetoric it was very clear where his allegiance lies.  To him, it's much more important that developers not be required to hang around too long to present their schemes to the council.  His choice is to make the residents - the voters - wait to air their grievances.  I'm VERY sure this behavior and his arrogant disregard for the rules will become part of the campaign dialogue in the coming months.  He stated that he wants to be sure the BUSINESS of the city gets done - he emphasized that word, hence the caps.  Yep, business is more important to him than the residents of this city.  Laughter erupted throughout the auditorium as he said, "This process works great!"

During her comments Genis addressed the need to move forward for a permanent facility for local Veterans, then addressed recent comments from the speaker's podium that were tinged with ethnic intolerance, describing that behavior as unacceptable.  When she mentioned my blog entry about the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address I thought Mensinger and Righeimer's heads would explode.  I smiled...

Leece addressed some of the concerns by earlier speakers, including Goelman's concerns about the safety at the Senior Center, Pollitt's comments about bullying and Morlan's concern about early prison releases.  She then launched into a dialogue about Righeimer's scheme to transform the Public Comments segment, describing them as an abridgment of our "Basic Human Right" to be heard.  She then discussed her decision to vote to deny the claim from the CMPOA, indicating it was a tough choice, but the correct one.

Righeimer then - even though he'd already had his turn to speak - AGAIN launched off into a rant about the lawsuit, stating over and over again that he was "shocked and appalled" at the silence he hears on the subject.  He said, "The silence is deafening!"  He has obviously already convicted his "enemies" before ANY evidence has been presented and before ANYONE has been charged with a crime.  From where I sit, it seems that many members of the community - while concerned about the charges being alleged - have the maturity to wait for the legal process to run its course before making judgments.  Clearly, the mayor has a HUGE problem communicating with the community.  That "silence" he perceives should be telling him something...

 For the first time in months Gary Monahan actually had a few things to say tonight.  He first expressed concern about the coyote problem and invited everyone to contact him on his private email address,, if they've had problems in their neighborhoods with coyotes.  He then told us that local radio station KOCI, 101.5 FM is gathering cash and toys for the Toys for Tots campaign.  He also congratulated Newport Harbor High School for remaining in the football playoffs and promised to wear a USC cap since the Trojans defeated Stanford last weekend.  (Genis pointed out that she, in deference to the Trojans defeat of her Stanford Cardinal, was wearing Trojan colors)

Then the Consent Calendar was considered and more than half the items were pulled, either by the council or public.  The remainder were passed and the pulled items were trailed to the end - again, delaying the process for residents with concerns.

Righeimer then jumped right into Public Hearing #1, the discussion of the Traffic Impact Fees.  After a ten minute discussion the staff recommended action was approved on a 5-0 vote.

Then Righeimer finally recognized that he, once again, forgot the CEO report, so turned the meeting over to Tom Hatch.  He announced three future study sessions that might be of interest to the public.  They are as follows:
12/10/13 - Homeless situation
1/14/14 - General Plan Update
2/25/14 - Mid-Year Budget Review

Hatch then introduced the new Interim Information Technology Director, Steve Ely.  Those who follow these things realize that he will immediately have a full plate to deal with, since the entire city government complex, including public safety venues, will be undergoing significant technology upgrades, both in hardware and software and a whole new internet backbone.  I spoke with him after the meeting.  He comes from Xerox and apparently has strong credentials.  He's going to need them.

Hatch also mentioned that our new permanent Fire Chief, Dan Stefano, will report for work on Monday, December 2nd and there will be a reception for him before the council meeting on the 3rd from 5-6 p.m. in Conference Room 1A.

Old Business #1, the new Fire and Building codes, took a record 30 seconds to consider and pass!

We then reached the "trailed" segment of the Public Comments and the remaining three individuals who were shut out earlier had a chance to speak.  The irrepressible Terry Koken led off, not with a song as he sometimes does, but with an invention he made to help deflect whatever external beams that are affecting certain council members - a foil device that he offered free of charge.

Sue Lester asked for clarification of the process of determining who gets to speak during Public Comments and asked that someone confirm that Righeimer and Monahan, who were absent from a recent meeting, had received the critical training on governmental ethics.  Nobody responded.

The trailed items from the Consent Calendar involving the tract map, the bike grant application, new public safety computer systems and the two items involving our new investment strategy were all dispatched promptly on 5-0 votes.

Then as the end of the meeting approached, the remaining two items from the Consent Calendar were to be heard.  However, Righeimer and Mensinger recused themselves because they involved the lawsuit they filed against the Costa Mesa Police.  Before they departed, though, Righeimer again went on a rant about this situation and said, "I will vote on the contract.  A judge will decide and I will vote!"  He compared this situation to one where a developer might "smash councilwoman Genis in the face" after she'd expressed her view that she wouldn't support the project.  She would then sue him and she couldn't vote on the project.  He used that analogy twice before he and Mensinger sauntered out of the chambers.  I thought his comments were, at the very least, in poor taste - nothing new for him.

Monahan, Genis and Leece voted 3-0 on Item 14 - the new salary structures for the police - and voted to receive and file item #2, since it was only a reading folder item and was rendered moot by their earlier closed session vote.

The meeting ended on an amusing note when, following those votes, someone asked if they should bring Righeimer and Mensinger back, Genis exclaimed, "No!", then gaveled the meeting adjourned.  I smiled.

Silly me... I forgot to mention something else interesting from last night's meeting!  As I gathered the staff reports from the foyer of the auditorium I notice a big stack of papers clamped together near the bottom of the shelf.  I grabbed one of the piles, then later asked City Clerk Brenda Green what this was.  I could already see the complete text of the lawsuit filed by Mensinger and Righeimer and his wife.  She told me that it was ALL the correspondence they had on the lawsuit and it was provided because the council has decided that if a majority of the council members have the information then the public should have it too!  Well, this pile of paperwork weighs in at just over 3 pounds and is at least three hundred sheets thick, most printed on both sides!  I suppose sometime between now and Christmas I might find a day or two to read it all... Ugh!

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Blogger Joe said...

While Bever is just a classless buffoon, the problem with Righeimer is that he's an extreme right-wing ideologue who exudes hate for anyone who doesn't develop land, have a 7-8 figure net worth, or kowtow to such people.

Despite his poor coverup of such negativity and the phony charm he attempts from time to time, I don't like him and do not believe that there is any substantial good he will accomplish for Costa Mesa.

When a couple of our cops pulled the anti-Righeimer trailer in 2010, their message and warnings were spot on, even if their method proved ineffective.

People of all political persuasions see this more and more, and will work together to send this carpetbagger away to go disrupt another city or other entity after next November.

In the meantime we must be vigilant- people like this will do almost anything to get what they want. The supression of public comment is only the beginning.

11/20/2013 06:48:00 AM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

There are 349 days until Election Day.

11/20/2013 10:51:00 AM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

Joe is right.
Righeimer and Co. will do anything to get what they want.
Tea Party Tom is now one of their main propaganda machines, playing judge and jury on the DUI,GPS incident before it even goes to trial- aren't they all doing this? It's how they campaign.
Allegations, rumors and fear are spread around to directly influence the voters.
Righeimer is a Drama Queen who loves to hear his own voice. Man, did he ever rattle on last night!
His faux outrage is now boring, repetitive and a pain to listen to.
His analogy failed miserably when he compared his false DUI incident to a physical assault on Sandy.
What on earth made him think of that?
Not only was it weird, but VERY disturbing for him to come up with that.
No wonder Sandy said 'No' when asked if Righeimer and Mensinger should return.

11/20/2013 03:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

I imagine many of our employees were upset and angry when they found out they were being followed by a private investigator hired by Mensinger. Righeimer knew about it. They didn't seem to see anything wrong with it then, so why are they so upset about someone monitoring their moves? As far as I'm concerned, they have no room to complain about it.

11/20/2013 06:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Atlas Shrunk said...

In general, I do not agree with the tone or tactics of the current council working majority.
If it actually occurred, attaching a GPS tracking device to a council candidate's vehicle to track his or her whereabouts without permission is a direct assault on the concept of a representative republic and free participation in the political process. It is an intimidation tactic worthy of the jackbooted street fighters in the Weimar Republic days. Or it would have been if they had the technology.
There is no excuse for such things. None at all.

11/20/2013 10:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Heart for Costa Mesa said...

Oh yeah, I forgot about that. City employees were being followed in their free time, when they were driving their private vehicles. . Creeepy. It was not just work time, which would have been weird enough. The boyz were pretty public about doing it. It was like "So what, we want to know what they're doing and who they are doing it with. Who are they talking to and who are they meeting"

In my opinion it's unacceptable on any side. Hypocrisy makes it exponentially worse.

Interesting point from last night. If the DA has not made anything public, did they leak insider information to Steve Mensinger? If so, why? Wouldn't that be illegal?

11/20/2013 10:41:00 PM  

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