Sunday, March 11, 2012

Another Reason You Can't Trust Jim Righeimer *(Amended)

Last Thursday Orange County Register Watchdog reporter Teri Sforza published a column entitled "City posts shocker pay data", HERE, which emphasized the overtime pay racked up by members of the Costa Mesa Fire Department. Later that day she amended the article with a new title: "City posts shocker pay data: Transparent, or incendiary?" HERE. That subsequent article mentioned quotes from Orange County Employee Association Communication Director, Jennifer Muir.

In both articles Sforza, appropriately, made a big to-do about the fact that the City
of Costa Mesa has made total compensation information - including pension costs - for ALL employees available online. In fact, that has happened for both the 2010 and 2011 calendar years.

Because that information is readily available, and because it's easy to misinterpret without some explanation, members of the City Council and some of their sycophants - like councilman wannabe Colin McCarthy, President of the council shill organization Costa Mesa Taxpayer's Association - have taken the raw data and twisted it to suit their personal agendas.

Sforza points out that two members of the CMFD had TOTAL compensation in excess of $300,000 and one battalion chief racked up over $109,000 in overtime. Certainly, those numbers will rock you back, but they need to be taken in context. That overtime was necessary because the City Council has refused to permit new firefighters to be hired unless a change is made to their pension plan - a second tier. Only two firefighters were hired in 2011 according to Costa Mesa Firefighters Association President, Tim Vasin. As a result, in order to provide even minimal coverage with staffing levels well below the authorized strength, overtime has been essential.

And, according to Vasin from Sforza's article, the City refused to permit the overtime hours to be shown on their spreadsheet, HERE. According to the article, Vasin says the annual average is 3,300 hours on duty - 63.5 hours per week per firefighter. Those are big numbers - around 50% more hours worked than you would expect with full staffing.

Then, on Saturday, March 10th, Sforza wrote ANOTHER article on
this subject, titled, "Righeimer: Huge O.T. bill is firefighters' fault", HERE. It was peppered with inflammatory comments by Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer.

In that article Righe
imer - still fuming because the contracts with each employee association don't expire until the end of his term - gripes that the firefighter's overtime is entirely due to the contract requirement for minimum staffing levels. He went on to say, "They could do the job with six people per shift, but they want to do it with 18 or 19 people because that's what their contract says." He goes on to say, "That contract is a political document. It basically says, 'We don't care how many people you actually need to do the job - you have to hire more.'"
*NOTE: When the print version of this article came out on 3/13/12 the "six people" comment by Righeimer had been deleted. It's gone from the online version, as well. According to Teri Sforza, in response to my inquiry, "Mr. R. was misquoted." That's it.


And there yo
u have it. Righeimer is either stupid, ignorant, an angry, frustrated political opportunist who will do or say ANYTHING to get his way on issues - or, maybe he's just a liar. Some might say all of the above. This man - a carpetbagger who saw Costa Mesa as ripe pickin's for his personal political agenda - slithered into town almost six years ago and has been the focus of controversy, turmoil and distrust ever since. The fact that he might actually think that the residents, businesses and visitors to Costa Mesa would be properly served by six firefighters per shift - that would be one firefighter per fire station per shift - tells you how little he actually understands or cares about public safety.

Of course, he demonstrated that ignorance last year when he demanded - and got - the Costa Mesa Police Department staffing reduced to 126 plus 5 temporary officers instead of meeting the barest of minimum staffing recommended by both the expensive consultant the city hired and Interim Chief Steve Staveley. We are down from 164 two years ago.

During a recent study session he plucked millions of dollars out of the air and plugged them into a 5-Year Plan spreadsheet without giving any indication of how he arrived at those numbers. Undoubtedly, come budget time those fabricated numbers will become part of the budget process and the city management team will have to figure out how to cover those fabrications. The answer will be few people - that's where the money is. And, oh, yes - that spread sheet is STILL not available on the city web site for public viewing.


It is that kind of arrogant, ignorant, capricious behavior that should make every voter in this city question the motives behind Jim Righeimer's Charter scheme. If he ever gets the power available to him in that Charter, like General Sherman marching through Georgia during the Civil War, he and his cronies will destroy this fine city, then move on and never look back. You just can't trust him, period.

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Anonymous Mike M said...

The most shocking thing in that second OCR story was the comments that followed - about 99% against Riggy. OCR readers are usually in lockstep with Riggy and the Tea Party crowd. Could the tide be turning?

3/12/2012 06:27:00 AM  
Anonymous sadie said...

I'm with you. The residents of Costa Mesa better start getting more involved and make a plan to oust this guy and his pals because they are going to get their way every time, no matter what they have to do to get it.

3/12/2012 08:17:00 AM  
Anonymous simplemath said...

So Happy that Stavely guy is gone! What a head case. Numbers are all correct in compensation report I suspect. Perhaps the base compensation is too high if OT=300K+? Just sayin..

3/12/2012 08:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Only in the crazy and insane world of the Bubbling Cauldron can you turn $6 mil in ridiculous overtime into an attack on Jim Righeimer. Are you serious BC? Blame the leaders trying to solve our problem for this mess? The overtime is largely a product of manufactured staffing levels by the Fire Department. They put that in their contract That much is clear. OCFA said we don't need to have 4 firemen and a hook and ladder respond to an old lady's chest pains but we still do it. $300k firemen should not sit well with the residents. We are being ripped off by these employees. Wake up!!

3/12/2012 08:50:00 AM  
Anonymous RobG said...

Just in case someone missed my original comments on the blog..

“They could do the job with six people per shift, but they want to do it with 18 or 19 people because that’s what their contract says,” Righeimer said.
AMAZING don't even know how many we have per shift (per day)... In the early 90's we had 36, then in the early 2000's we went to 32, now 28. AND YOU WANT 6?
Oh, and our contract doesn't say 18 or says 28.
The reason OCFA can doit with fewer is because they have 65 (now 75 with Santa Ana joining) other fire stations that can move around and cover the area if a fire or other major emergency is happening in the City. And NO Newport, Huntington and Fountain Valley cant do that same thing because they are stretched thin just like us.
“That contract is a political document. It basically says, ‘We don’t care how many people you actually need to do the job — you have to hire more.’” Righeimer stated.
Well, your wrong again isn't a political document (maybe to you it is) this is a contract that provides a certain level of service to the citizens that they pay for and expect. Decreasing service will not lower their taxes, in fact it may raise their taxes when the ISO rating is adjusted.
We have tried to negotiate with you and the council for months and you refuse to budge for political reasons. Stop playing games and using the firefighters, citizens, police, and general employees as pawns.

3/12/2012 08:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Jim is a Shim said...

Don't worry everybody I'm sure that this slow-witted bald mans head won't get any bigger when he becomes the Mayor.

3/12/2012 09:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Wyatt Earp said...

Mike M...I'm in no position to say the tide is turning, but I have found most people on both sides of the aisle simply don't like being duped. Righeimer tried to dupe the folks rather blatantly with that compensation report. The FF's OT was exposed as being caused by council decisions. I suspect most PD OT is caused by same. The only difference is much of the PD OT is paid for by grants from the state and federal government therefore it does not impact the city budget. Bottom line is most folks don't want to be played for fools and it appears Righeimer's latest stunt has backfired on him.

Phil and simplemath....When will you guys give up? Your boy was exposed through Sforza's articles. Keep it up because your rants here about this are not helping you guys.

3/12/2012 09:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Wyatt Earp said...

RobG....I'm curious. Where do you guys get your numbers for minimum staffiing? Are there national standards? Or state standards? I know PD's generally follow a formula that takes into account such things as city size, population size, calls for service, types of calls, etc. Does fire have the same? If so, is it something everyone follows? In other words, the one part of this that has not been discussed it whether CMFD is simply following rules like already set forth. This whole "manufactured staffing levels" in Phil's little mind would go away real fast if you guys can provide some insight in that.

3/12/2012 09:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Drunk Phil Writes Again said...

Hey Northside Phil, the OCFA would respond to a little old lady with chest pain in one of two ways:

1) 3 firefighters on a fire engine, two firefighter/paramedics on a non-transporting ambulance van, and then 2 EMTs on a private ambulance.
2) 4 firefighters on a fire engine of which 2 of them are firefighter/paramedics and 2 EMTs on a private ambulance for the transport.

You tell me which one is better. The OCFA is doing one of these two ways for delivering service in all of the Cities that it contracts for, currently 22 soon to be 23 with Santa Ana.You can check it out for yourself at

3/12/2012 09:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Down by the River said...


When you get back from the River, the taxpayers would like to ask you to pay your share, the employee portion of your pension. Let us know which of the 9 days a month you are working so we can grab coffee.

Also, when you have a 2nd tier pension, new hires can be added to take care of some of the overtime.

Ready when you are

3/12/2012 09:30:00 AM  
Anonymous No Fear Based Budgeting said...

Drunk Phil, maybe you can help us.

Is your MOU structured to require 4 on a truck to allow for efficient grocery shopping?

I bet 3 on a truck saves taxpayers several million dollars a year.

Can you show me a study where other regions of the country die at a higher rate because they have EMS handle the ambulance stuff, and firefighters handle fires?

The days of fear based budgeting are over.

3/12/2012 09:49:00 AM  
Anonymous almostdone said...

Hey PhiL, Barry, Et Al.... Do you know what a ISO rating is and what happens when your fire dept doesn't meet their standards?
No, of coarse you don't.
To meet ISO standards you have to have fire stations and equipment placed throughout the city so that acceptable response times can be met. You also have to have minimum staffing on that equipment so that established performance standards can be met.
Costa Mesa is already below that staffing level.
Who cares, right?
Well... probably tax payers thoughout the city that have needed those responders in the past. And people with brains in their heads that know they might in the future.
I think that Riggy made a big mistake making such a blatent and obviously political statement. "It's the firefighters fault" and basically saying that "current minimum staffing levels are political and just a way for them to rip off the tax payers".
I'm sure that a lot of people who, even though they want reform when it comes to retirement benifits, are going... Whoa wait a minute! That's just false and how can you trust someone who is going to say things like the standards used by this and every other professional fire dept in the state are just a lie put in place to enrich firefighters.
SIX!.... Just remind yourself who said that when you're wondering who actually has the interest of the citizens as a part of their agenda.

3/12/2012 09:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Common sense said...

Geoff, you really need to start being a bit more impartial. Common sense says fire OT is outrageous. Fire agreed to fewer firefighters in exchange for better retirement buyouts not long ago. Santa Ana's fire union reduced its minimum staffing in order to save firefighter jobs, NOT citizen lives. They agreed to reduce minimum manning requirements by 25% - 25% fewer firefighters per shift just like that. They had probably been telling the SA Council that they needed those 63 firefighters per shift for "public safety" reasons, but when it looked like they would lose their jobs, they all of a sudden only needed 48.

When you have most firefighters in Costa Making massive OT every year, it is obviously abusive. When firefighters agree to take early retirement and change staffing levels to benefit themselves financially or save their own jobs, you know it isn't about public safety.

3/12/2012 10:15:00 AM  
Anonymous simplemath said...

Wyatt, confident of victory here so will keep it up! Yep, CM4RG has already tried to dupe the voters and will be exposed, and very easily done. They don't tell a straight story on real facts and then even make up nightmare scenarios. To compare us to Bell is ridiculous, we have much more oversight here, a very transparent City !! I don't want to be duped by either side of this Charter issue, OT issue, etc. I know the facts and there are a couple good arguments of both sides but then a bunch more on the Charter and pension control side. Still a way to go until June. If Genis and her group keep lying there is no way I will change my current pro charter position. They will probably be playing the race card by May in desperation as the polling will show 60-40 for Charter based on likely voters.

3/12/2012 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Straightening Out said...

Troll 'common sense' wrote:

"Geoff, you really need to start being a bit more impartial."

Yeah, Geoff. Find out what Bever and Monahan were promised and see if they'll give you some.

Then get into lockstep with Ethan, Colon, and Fitzpatrick; goodness will follow.

Next, ask for money or something else to write good stuff about the Riggy gang. Use Lobdell and Swaim as negotiating points.

Finally, picket CMPD HQ and some fire stations with a big "NO OT" sign.

You'll soon be less angry and happier. Everything will be SUPER! Maybe they'll even let you follow them to the next victim town.

3/12/2012 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger Colin said...

So let's say you have a residental fire in an apt complex at 11 PM on a Sat, then before that can be contained, you have an industrial fire caused by toxic chemicals in the industrial district. With only 6 people on staff, which comes first ? This is why you have extra people to cover this. I'd rather have extra people on staff then have my house burn down.

3/12/2012 12:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Drunk Phil Writes Again said...

To No Fear Based, hate to break it to you, but not a member of the MOU or fire department,I was just pointing out the way OCFA handles EMS calls to an uninformed poster.

For the second part of your question, no I can't show you any study, because that's not my field, but if you have something please share it with the rest of us.

3/12/2012 12:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Sam Grady said...

simplemath, exactly where did you get the 60/40 number for the charter? Was it that ridiculous Daily Pilot poll? Based upon opinions of actually residents in my neighborhood, no one will vote yes on this charter. They may back a charter down the road, but not until Righeimer and company are voted out of town. Why do you hate Costa Mesa so much that you are willing to follow a despicable man and his cronies?

3/12/2012 12:42:00 PM  
Anonymous be prepared said...

emergency response is like the military. They sit around and practice until needed.

Harbor blvd head on collision. 4 cars involved. A fire truck shows up with two guys. Cpr on one victum, control bleeding on another. The police are trying to control trafic and the fuel is running down the gutter.
House fire, one on the hose the other on the pump. Oops no one to go inside or protect the neighbors house.
Emergency preparedness is a waste by nature. If you don't value being prepared.
If you have ever been in an emergency and wished you had someone to help.
Get use to it

3/12/2012 12:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Max said...

No, you really can't trust Jim Righeimer. He's got some clear personality disorder. Just look at all of the things in the past where he acted sleazy. Sad how most people don't follow our city government close enough to know about all of the dirty things he has done.

3/12/2012 01:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Fear said...

Here it comes. Be prepared is tugging on the fear that has worked before. But not now.

Be prepared, we know you guys are being stopped at the super market. Being thanked for your service. But asked to get realistic in pay.

This is not 9/11 anymore

3/12/2012 01:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Wyatt Earp said...

simplemath...If you believe the charter as written by Righeimer will deal with pensions, then you have truly been duped and there is obviously no hope for you. The OT issue is another one. This is clearly at the feet of the council, regardless of what Righeimer says. So again, if you are on the fence then it is already too late for you. I agree with you that comparing CM to Bell is stupid except to the extent that unchecked authority under a charter, such as in Bell, most certainly could happen here.

3/12/2012 02:33:00 PM  
Blogger Colin said...

Fear - Yeah, but this is any industry buddy. We over prepare on our BOPs (oil industry) so we don't have things like the 2010 Gulf Spill happen (no equipiment in our company was involved in that btw). It's not 911 or police/firefighters in general, it's any industry where safety is an issue, in this cause, the people are government's industry, so they need to enact safety measures for the good of the public at all times, not when YOU think their is going to be a fire, or how much YOU feel people should get paid. These are reasons calculations like this are in place, the city council is just trying to make political hay out of this for their own purposes. Why don't we just go to the kinda fire insurance they have out in rural states, where you don't pay, opppps !! There goes your house. Nonsense. We either are a community or we are not, we can share resources and improve each others lives, or the strongest can take what they want from the weak. Which do you want to live in ?

3/12/2012 03:41:00 PM  
Anonymous CM Council Stinks!!! said...


I've never stopped a police officer, fire fighter or any other professional and told them to get "realistic" about their pay. I've thanked them for their service and that was it.

I would find it highly insulting if anybody told someone to get realistic about their pay.

I'm happy for the cops and firefighters we have in this city and proud of what they do.

Keep believing all is good with Righeimer, Mensinger and the rest of their followers. You think they give a crap about you? If you do, I have some bridges for sale. Tell me how many you want to buy....=)

3/12/2012 04:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Share resources? said...


"We either are a community or we are not, we can share resources and improve each others lives, or the strongest can take what they want from the weak."

If that is the case, why won't fire agree to rational staffing levels and schedules that don't maximize OT? There are some Costa Mesa firefighters making more in OT than some of our police officer salaries. There are some firefighters making almost as much in OT as their salary. That is absurd - and not a product of too many calls. It is gaming the system put in place by the MOU.

3/13/2012 10:53:00 AM  
Anonymous RobG said...

Down By The River:
You stated:
"When you get back from the River, the taxpayers would like to ask you to pay your share, the employee portion of your pension. Let us know which of the 9 days a month you are working so we can grab coffee.
Also, when you have a 2nd tier pension, new hires can be added to take care of some of the overtime."

I would like to clarify that firefighters work 10 days a month, not 9. Thats 10 24hr shifts which is 240 hrs a month minimum. 40hr a week employees work 160 hrs a month. So utilizing just straight time numbers you can see that we put in 80 hrs more a month. I know your thinking "well, you sleep at the staion" so I would add to that Yes, sometimes we do. But it doesnt matter if I do or not, the issue is that Im AT WORK and not at home with my family like you. When Im at work I expect to be paid, just like you would.
Im not complaining, because this is the profession that I chose and I understand there are consequences.
As far as your pension issue, the Costa Mesa Firefighter Association did offer to pay more toward our pensions and the City leaders (?) refused the offer last November. That is fact.
Go to to find more facts.

3/13/2012 01:25:00 PM  
Blogger Colin said...

Share resources? - So what's rational ? If you don't work in the industry, how would you know ? Sure lower levels sound great, until your house catches on fire and no one is around. What are other cities comparable rates of fire employment ? About the same ? And you sit here and complain about overtime charges, yet say nothing of the legal bill charges that are coming ouot of city hall like a water hose. Of the two professions, I don't mind fire and police getting paid. I don't put my life on the line daily like they do. Quit taking the talking points sent by Riggy and be an empathic human being.

3/13/2012 01:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Empathy!? said...


Paying firefighters $80k, or $45k, or even $25k in OT is what it takes to be an empathetic human being?

Minimum staffing requirements and MOU provisions create OT where none exists. The OT is a product of covering shifts for other firefighters who take vacation days or sick days, and staffing levels that are more about OT than public safety (Santa Ana magically needing 25% fewer firefighters when their jobs were on the line).

Rational is not gaming the system by everyone working together to maximize OT, but instead putting rules in place and reopening the MOU so that shifts are covered without utilizing OT.

If you don't know that this is how the game works - YOU aren't in the industry.

Why don't you try being an empathetic human being and demand that dozens of firefighters making more in OT than the average Costa Mesa citizen earns in a year, stop gaming the system and help the city restore jobs and services.

There are 16 firefighters who made more in OT last year than Helen Nenendal's salary. You want empathy? Talk to them.

3/13/2012 07:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Perspective said...

Of the 80+ fire fighters (all ranks), only 3 were paid less then $10,000 in OT, 5 were paid between $10,000 and $20,000 in OT, 11 were paid between $20,000 and $30,000, 23 were paid between $30,000 and $40,000 in OT, 22 were paid between $40,000 and $50,000 in OT, 1 was paid between $50,000 and $60,000 in OT, 7 were paid between $60,000 and $70,000 in OT, 7 were paid between $70,000 and $80,000 in OT, 3 were paid between $80,000 and $90,000 in OT and 1 was paid $109,500 in OT.

3/13/2012 08:16:00 PM  

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