Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hoping for a Quorum, Expanding The Forum and Acosta Decorum

I hesitate t
o mention this for fear of jinxing another City Council Study Session. That being said, this afternoon the Costa Mesa City Council will attempt to hold another study session. The April session was canceled because they didn't have a quorum. Let's hope that at least three members show up today.


Once again, members of the Costa Mesa Police Department will attempt to present their ideas
on how to manage the gang problem in our city. The staff report is skimpy, to say the least, but I imagine their plans will include a prevention/intervention element to it in addition to the enforcement segment. Let's all hope the council will listen to them this time around and fund an intervention segment. Last year they blew it off, despite a very credible presentation by the Police Department about how essential a prevention/intervention element is to any successful gang control plan.


There are those in o
ur community that rant and rave about the gang problem in our city, yet completely reject what the Police Department feels is a very real threat - White Supremacist gangs. According to reports made previously, those gangs are vicious and clever. A sweep not too long ago throughout Orange County snatched up nearly 60 White Supremacist gang members - including 20 at 17 locations in Costa Mesa. Those thugs had put out "hits" on law enforcement members and prosecutors. They infiltrate financial institutions, steal sensitive personal information and use it to engage in identity theft crimes to finance their drug businesses. Since the police consistently present facts to back up their position, one can only assume those who reject the very existence of this threat must have a vested interest in it being ignored. I wonder what that might be? I also wonder why, to this very day, the elected leaders of this city - Allan Mansoor specifically - has still not mentioned that sweep and it's results. It's all the more curious because Mansoor is a member of the Orange County Sheriff's Department - a deputy who spends his work day hunkered down in the jail.

A couple new anonymous bloggers in town, CMTRUTH and CM WATCHTOWER, seem to be having an impact on our town. As we approach the campaign season it will be very interesting to see what positions they take on the candidates. What makes this campaign season especially interesting is the
speculation - fueled by his own not-to-veiled comment - that a guy who calls himself "Mr. U-Know-Who" might actually run for City Council. I've said repeatedly that I don't think that's going to happen - it would open him up to so much personal scrutiny and criticism that I doubt he could handle it. Heck, he has a tough time handling criticism now!

The Benito Acosta trials continue to reverberate through our city. In case you were wo
ndering, as of the end of March the civil trial - Acosta is suing the City of Costa Mesa for his arrest during a council meeting - the cost of defending that suit is over $136,000 according to sources at the law firm representing the city, Jones & Mayer. The criminal trial - the one that was dismissed - has also cost the city over $130,000, but Jones & Mayer is handling the appeal pro bono. I should hope so, since it was their error that caused the dismissal! So far that effort has cost them almost $20,000.

I don't k
now how most of you feel about this - I suspect I'll hear from a few of you - but it's my view that this whole thing never would have happened if then-mayor Allan Mansoor had used good judgment and let Acosta finish his presentation to the council that fateful night. I've watched the tapes of that event and agree that Acosta was rude, but the situation only got out of hand after Mansoor refused to let his supporters stand and be recognized - as he had permitted Minuteman Grand Pooba Jim Gilchrist's followers to do earlier - then cut Acosta off short of his alloted three minutes.


So far, Mansoor's bad judgment has cost the city over a quarter million dollars in legal fees and has the potential to dip deeply into the city coffers if the civil trial is found in Acosta's favor. The costs incurred so far could have funded a couple more police officers and a gang intervention element. All this to perpetuate and enhance the political future of an inept city councilman - a guy who has used the turmoil he created in Costa Mesa as a springboard to higher office. He's on the June ballot for a slot on the Orange County Republican Central Committee.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geoff, I couldn't possibly disagree more about the Acosta, and instead of regurgitating my past comments on the issue, I'll paste the text and link to my letter published in The Daily Pilot:

Mr. de Arakal’s thought-provoking column (“Acosta case never trial worthy,” Oct. 11) on the Acosta trial begs for a counterpoint. His general point that the Acosta trial was an embarrassing train wreck for our city is valid, but there is much to be debated about how we got to this point.

I believe the city’s decision to prosecute Acosta was justified. Take the mayor’s actions out of it, and attempt to leave any bias you may have behind. Faced with a defiant Acosta and a very vocal crowd, what were the police supposed to do? He actively resisted them and disobeyed their orders. If the city had refused to prosecute him, what message does that send to anyone else wishing to disrupt a council meeting? No one knows why the district attorney decided to not prosecute. The district attorney is an elected official, perhaps entering the illegal immigration fray by prosecuting the most visible symbol of pro-illegal immigration activism in Orange County at the time would have been too politically costly.

I know full well this is a very passionate issue, and that it does seem completely unfair and disgusting that an elected official would grant an out-of-towner privileges (Gilchrist asking his supporters to stand) while shutting down a resident wishing to do the same thing. Not allowing Acosta’s supporters to stand does appear wrong and discriminatory, but that is only if you ignore significant factors contributing to the sequence of events that night.

Acosta’s behavior at the previous meeting, which he deliberately disrupted with a profanity-laced outburst, the size and make-up of the crowd, and the nature of the exchange between the mayor and Gilchrist all factor into what happened. Gilchrist requested, Acosta demanded.

Acosta’s willingness to throw decorum out the window in December could reasonably be construed as a deliberately planned act of civil disobedience.

The mayor, a veteran law-enforcement officer, made a decision based on his perception of the situation, and it seemed pretty clear that the police felt the same way. Acosta did say he and all his supporters would be “right here” and would “fight this to the end” and were “not going to let this pass.” From a public safety standpoint, what do you do? Just hope that everything will be OK, it’s just rhetoric, or take preemptive action?

I urge everyone interested to watch the videos again. Notice Acosta’s swift transition from barely-able-to-speak nervousness to aggressive defiance. The mayor was clearly heard telling him to stop urging his supporters to stand. Acosta ignored him and repeatedly exclaimed “do it!” in open defiance of the presiding officer and the clearly posted rules. Watch also when the police calmly surround Acosta and listen to his protests. When it becomes clear that he has no intention of complying with multiple senior police officers, Chief Hensley leans in and orders him removed from the council chambers. “Football scrum?” Hardly.

Remember, in this country, disobeying lawful orders and physically resisting a police officer gets you arrested. If an officer has his hands on your arm and you violently shake it off, you will go down to the ground.

In the end, Acosta’s hijacking of the meeting was responsible for the ensuing disruption. Acosta had many legitimate options for addressing the perceived injustice of being cut off. Unfortunately for all of us, he chose the wrong option and paid the consequences.

I respect Mr. de Arakal’s opinion, and the bungled legal proceedings are an embarrassment. That said, the merits of the charges against Acosta remain undetermined. I am in no way endorsing the mayor’s refusal to let Acosta’s supporters stand, and his actions may be costly if a federal judge agrees with Acosta’s attorneys. However, arguably there is a reasonable explanation for the mayor’s actions. I simply cannot discern any reasonable explanation for Acosta’s actions that night.

5/13/2008 06:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sad part of this is Acosta should have been allowed to finish. Once he was declared out of order should he have left? yes, as he was leaving and asking to be able to walk out on his own accord the failure of a police chief Hensley instructed four fine officers who had the situation under control to make matters worse & remove him with force.
But thats the kind of decisions we could expect from a chief who did not even have a real college degree .
The fact the minute men were able to do their thing was bound to happen considering the majority of the mayors funds came from minutemen members who don't even live in the city.

5/13/2008 08:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The meeting was poorly handled all around. A more competent gavel and a more reasoned response by the police would have gone a long way to defuse the situation. Acosta was clearly out of line, as were others in attendance.

Frankly the whole thing was a breakdown in leadership and decorum. Acosta threw fuel on the fire by suing. If he had not sued I would have expected a fine (possible dismissed with a promise of being more civil in the future) and that would have been the end of it.

As it turned out, the whole thing is a train wreck and I am embarrassed my city is even involved in it. Not because I sympathize in any way with Acosta, but because it show a certain amateurish approach to our governance.


5/14/2008 09:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cmtruth, I agree in principle that he should have been allowed to finish. I am a staunch pro-Constitution, citizens are the power, not the government kind of guy. But you simply cannot view the events of that night in a vacuum. The whole mood was hostile and confrontational. A more seasoned politician may have been able to defuse it. Also, we do not know what plans the police had in advance. They could have advised Mansoor to shut Acosta down based on his past behavior.

The whole thing sucks, but repeated review of the video clearly shows Acosta as the problem, regardless of the Gilchrist silliness.

Have you gone back and watched it again recently? I'd be curious to hear your take after a fresh viewing. I have an admitted dislike for Acosta, for very good reasons, so a different viewpoint is always interesting.

5/14/2008 02:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my take is simple, mansoor should have let the man speak, once he did not & declared him out of order, Acosta asked for an explanation, sure he was pissed i would have wanted an explanation as well. Once the (4) able officers were about to allow him to walk out on his own pseudo chief lowered the boom. Whole thing could have been avoided if Hensley would have let his officers handle it the way they were professionally & courtiously.
Of course handling with out an incident would not have helped the city council agenda so it's no wonder their pawn made that move.

5/14/2008 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger Humberto said...

I think you're missing the point here. Allan Mansoor repeatedly interrupted people who spoke against his policies. One of our elected officials, Katrina Foley, was interrupted once, and I was interrupted in front of a full packed Hall as well. I was denouncing the appointment of Millard to the 3R Committee, and he basically told me to stop talking about a private citizen. Well, Millard was part of the government, and I had the right to find out from them why they appointed someone whose ideology embraces segregation. I’m sure other people went through the same pattern during the immigration crisis. If you want more detailed information about what happened with me and Katrina Foley, you’ll be able to find it in my book. Mansoor clearly violated Acosta’s constitutional rights, mine, Katrina’s, and by extension all the people in Costa Mesa. Since he was the head of the government (people, residents of Costa Mesa), we all are responsible for his blunders. As scary it may sound to some people, he represents us.

5/14/2008 06:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cmtruth and Humberto,

I think we are talking about different points - Humberto, when you were cut off, was your reaction defiance and escalation? If Mansoor had aribitrarily and prejudicially cut off Acosta, the response is a formal complaint and possible lawsuit. Refusing to leave and shaking off police officers is NEVER the correct option.

That IS my point. Please read my letter again - Acosta's actions are his own, and he made the wrong choice. All of this handwringing about Mansoor's rudeness is irrelevant. There are specific remedies for alleged civil and Constitutional rights violations, and Acosta's behavior at the previous meeting and at the one in question was totally out of line.

Do you SERIOUSLY think that, after being told not to urge his supporters to stand, the correct response is to yell "DO IT, DO IT!"

Seriously, leave the obvious dislike for Mansoor out of this. You don't stand in front of a City Council in a public meeting and call the Mayor a "f-ing racist pig" and then, at the next meeting, defy orders and incite the crowd to do the same. You DO NOT DO THAT. That is NOT acceptable. If you do that, and then defy the cops, you lose.

The whole thing was ugly, but two wrongs never make a right. Acosta had a full menu of absolutely legitimate options for any perceived violation of his rights. He chose the one option that was not legitimate.

Sure, civil disobedience has it place, but it also has its consequences.

5/15/2008 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Rob, I think all of us agree that there was bad behavior on the part of Acosta. I, too, was outraged at his foul language at the meeting earlier - that was unacceptable. You, with more legal knowledge than the average bear, and I, with more years than the same bear, understand proper decorum. I doubt Acosta has the same perspective on life and authority.

Much as you might like us to disregard Mansoor's missteps in this drama, I cannot. Once he permitted Gilchrist and his mob to stand and be recognized, to forbid Acosta from doing the same thing was just plain wrong. It was unfair and looked discriminatory. I've watched and re-watched the tapes of that event. The chaos that took place was a direct result of Mansoor cutting Acosta off and Hensley's instruction which resulted in Acosta being dragged from the chambers. Mansoor demonstrated an immaturity we don't expect from our top elected officials. Who knows, maybe that's why he's spending his career in the bowels of the jail.

5/15/2008 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I hear you, but we'll have to disagree about the cause of the chaos. If Acosta had simply sat down, no chaos would have ensued.

Your point about Acosta's experience is dead on, and it was obvious that he was very passionate and felt strongly that the policy was wrong and unconscionable. This is a life lesson for him, and it is still going on. He learned, the hard way, what happens when you defy authority - no matter how illegitimate you think that authority may be.

I have been to dozens of contentious public hearings throughout California, and the results are almost always the same. Someone is furious at the outcome, the alleged bias of the officials, etc. People who stepped over the line were almost always removed by the police or security. Granted, they were often given more time and were often allowed to finish their statements, but the consequence for defying a presiding officer is almost always removal from the chambers. Sorry, but that is the truth - and the way it should be.

Acosta and his ilk turned the council meetings into ridiculous farce. Remember the freaks from out of town who would hold up Hitler dolls and figures, and use their time to rail againt the "Nazis" on the council? That's not civic discourse.

The remedy for Mansoor's perceived rude behavior on the dais is a formal complaint or lawsuit if his behavior is discriminatory.

I truly understand your point, but I simply cannot agree that Mansoor's perceived rudeness or prejudicial behavior in ANY WAY excuses Acosta's behavior.

5/15/2008 04:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to post so many times, but I just realized that I never fully responded to Humberto. I have attended and watched many CM council meetings. There is NEVER an excuse for the councilmembers to be rude to citizens. Cutting people off is extraordinarily rude and indicative of immaturity and contempt for the other party.

It is too bad that so few people attend these meetings - people need to know how their elected officials treat the public they "serve." Most times, they are polite and courteous, but sometimes their individual personalities reveal themselves, and they can be rude.

Personally, everyone has been courteous with me, and I have spoken with or corresponded with everyone except Ms. Leece. Mansoor went out of his way to contact me after I wrote about his plans for the golf course. I cannot speak to impolite or rude behavior that I have not witnessed. I have watched a tantrum or two, but they were more damaging to the councilmember, not the public.

5/15/2008 05:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

let's be real here, mansoor did the wrong thing as did acosta, the police were handling it just fine until hensley showed how inept he is at dealing with situations, which is why he was run out of CM by his own officers, i strongly feel Acosta would have walked out on his own but before he was to do so, hensley ruined any chance of a peaceful end to the situation & now due to Mansoor & Hensleys biased judgement, they have cost the city a lot of $$$ that could have been spent elsewhere

5/15/2008 06:33:00 PM  
Blogger Humberto said...

The answer to your question is no. I didn’t react defiantly. I immediately realized I was on the losing side, and decided to change subjects despite the fact I had a legitimate concern. Again, Millard was part of the government, and he was not, as the Mayor stated that night, “a private citizens”. When I went back to my seat, I felt terrible; the Mayor had violated my rights. Your answer to this issue seems to be that there is a legal venue to pursue justice. In that event, according to your view, I should’ve hired an attorney and sue the city (Mansoor represents Costa Mesa) for arbitrarily curtailing my civil and individual rights to use a public forum to deliver a free speech. I didn’t, but the ACLU is doing it for Benito Acosta. I think most people agree with you that Acosta wasn’t a premier citizen while talking to the City Council. Many of us saw him insulting Mansoor right after the Mayor pushed a policy to let the CMPD enforce immigration law. I didn’t like Acosta’s behavior, and I don’t approve anybody using a callous language against “my representatives.” Now, let’s be fair here. How many times have you seen Millard speaking disrespectfully to our representatives? I guess it would be hard to count. That only suggests that even before Acosta was kicked out of City Hall, Mansoor had already developed a double-standard bar to judge those speaking during public comment sessions. Acosta’s impoliteness, doesn’t give Mansoor or anybody in the government to blatantly deny someone’s constitutional rights to address his/her grievances. That is wrong in a democratically constituted society.

5/16/2008 10:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CMtruth, no one knows what may have happened had Hensley let the stand-off continue. You may be 100% correct - everything might have calmed down. He may have walked away and the meeting would have gone a whole lot smoother.

However, the opposite was also a possibility. Before he was taken out, members of the audience were yelling at the police. Acosta was being defiant, shaking off the officer's hands and repeatedly telling them not to touch him.

I admit that, if I had been cut off, denied something that had been even tacitly agreed to by the presiding officer, and had cops surrounding me for voicing my opinion - I would have been pissed off as well. REALLY pissed off. In fact, I probably would have filed a lawsuit.

But I would not stand there and defy 4 cops, refusing to do what they asked. I also would not have totally defied Mansoor by yelling "do it!" to my supporters.

Ultimately, a judge will rule on this, and we'll all know what an independent legal authority feels was appropriate.

I do not think the meeting was handled well. When Mansoor told Gilchrist that standing by both sides would be acceptable, he should have just been quiet and let Acosta's supporters stand. My whole point here is that there is a rational explanation for how things eventually did go down, and a careful review of the videos leads me to believe that Acosta's suit will fail. I hope I'm right, for the taxpayer's sake.

5/16/2008 11:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You are absolutely correct. My point is the choice of remedy. If everyone who is wronged by rude or discriminatory behavior by a public body is allowed to do whatever they want to address that injustice - perceived or real - we have anarchy.

I also think that it was clear that Mansoor was treating Acosta differently. My assumption is that it was because of his previous outburst. Acosta's clearly articulated contempt for rules and the City Council cannot be ignored.

5/16/2008 01:05:00 PM  

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