Monday, August 26, 2013

Trouble In The City Of The Arts

The last couple weeks will be memorable in the annals of Costa Mesa lore.  Things happened that have most likely never, ever happened before throughout the entirety of Costa Mesa's history.

For example, after a rousing success with the 60th Anniversary Celebration the end of June, it looks like there's trouble in River City.  Two employees - those responsible for coordinating the event and guiding the activities of the committee appointed to plan the event - were placed on administrative leave and, a few days later, boxes of "stuff" were observed being moved from the 5th floor of City Hall to the Police Department, a few yards away.  Nobody is 'fessing up to moving the stuff, but logic tells us that it was likely one law enforcement entity or another.

We do know that Public Records Requests for information dealing with the financials of the 60th celebration have been responded to very slowly, in part, apparently, because much of the information requested is buried in the bowels of that "stuff".

And then we have the Great Trail Mystery - the decomposed granite pathway that was installed on the sly, running along the Fairview Park side of the fence between the park and Waldorf School.  There are reports of men being seen installing the path - which encroached significantly on at least one  federally-protected vernal pool.  Although he denied knowing anything about the path, when he was shown photographs of it marked with flags showing the delineation of the boundaries of the pool, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger shifted into a different mode, apparently exclaiming something to the effect, "Well, what do you expect the kids going to school to do - walk through weeds?"  So, one presumes that Mensinger had prior knowledge of the path, and that it was "all about the kids" - his mantra for almost every breath he takes.  It has been reported that folks have photos of the trail being installed, and that there may be a familiar face or two in them.  We'll see.

One thing is sure... now that the federal government is involved - yep, they know about this transgression and apparently are NOT happy about it - extraordinary measures will be taken to discover who installed the path, and who authorized it.  It's my understanding that penalties could range from a simple slap on the wrist and the requirement to rehabilitate the destroyed pool to much more severe penalties imposed on the city for it's failure to be the good steward of those pools as agreed upon many years ago.

And then we have THE BIG EVENT - the lawsuit filed by Mayor Jim Righeimer, his wife Lene, and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger against the Costa Mesa Police Association - the rank and file officers charged with keeping us safe every day.  The suit also involves Private Investigator Chris Lanzillo, the law firm of Lackie, Dammier, McGill & Ethir for which he had worked and 25 John Does - unnamed folks they may wish to fold into the lawsuit later.

The forty-three (43) page document includes fourteen (14) causes of action in which Righeimer, his wife and Mensinger claim significant damages arising out of the much-publicized event last year when Lanzillo followed Righiemer out of councilman Gary Monahan's bar, called the police to report him driving erratically, followed him home and observed our most highly decorated DUI enforcement officer, Kha Bao, speak with Righeimer and resolve that the mayor had not been driving under the influence.  Then, it is alleged, that Lanzillo tried to run Mrs. Righeimer down when she approached his car.  Personally, I have a hard time with that last part, since the CMPD officer was still there and certainly would have seen such an act and arrested Lanzillo on the spot for assault with a deadly weapon.

I've gone through the entire "Complaint for Damages" several times and it doesn't take long to find mistakes in the document, including inaccurately describing the mayor's election dates and ignoring the fact that Mensinger was elected to his position.  And, adding a little amusement to the document, in Paragraph 71 the text states: "Defendants' conduct, directed towards Plaintiffs, as  described herein, especially with respect to the INCIDENT, was outrageous and extreme and beyond the bounds of conduct tolerated by civilized society.  It was carried out intentionally, or wonton disregard of the probability of causing Plaintiffs to suffer emotional distress."  I guess it's pretty serious when Chinese dumplings are involved, huh?  I guess it's too much to ask your high-powered lawyer to run a spell check program, huh?

Peppered throughout the complaint are two paragraphs, boilerplate, describing the damage done to the plaintiffs.  Examples are paragraphs 81 and 82, which read as follows:

81. Defendants' above-noted actions were the legal and proximate causes of physical, psychological, emotional, and economic damages, and damage to their reputation Plaintiffs have suffered and continue to suffer to this day.  These actions of Defendants have also resulted in Plaintiffs incurring, and will require them to incur into the future, expenses for medical and psychological treatment, therapy, and counseling.

82. As a result of the above-described conduct, Plaintiffs suffered and continue to suffer great pain of mind and body, shock, emotional distress, physical manifestations of emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, disgrace, humiliation, and loss of enjoyment of life; have suffered and continue to suffer and were prevented and will continue to be prevented from performing daily activities and obtaining the full enjoyment of life; have and will continue to sustain loss of earning capacity; have and will continue to suffer damage to their business reputation; and have incurred and will continue to incur expenses for medical and psychological treatment, therapy, and counseling.  They have also suffered economic business loss as a result

I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty darn serious, particularly since it's repeated over and over and over in the Complaint.  I honestly worry about the physical and mental well-being of our mayor and mayor pro tem and wonder, considering the apparent extent of their "injuries" in this case, how they can be expected to fulfill the duties of the jobs to which they were elected.  I mean, these disabilities seem very severe, which will certainly be borne out when all their medical records and financial records are subpoenaed and when they are deposed for the trial.

Perhaps, in the interest of their health and financial well-being, we should ask them to step down and permit those chairs on the dais to be filled with people more temperamentally suited and physically and emotionally more stable.  Both Righeimer and Mensinger have frequently complained about the pay for the hours they devote to city business.  It would seem appropriate, especially under the circumstances, that they step aside so they can devote more time to providing a good life for their families and to get their mental faculties back in order.  Of course, reading that complaint, it seems they doubt they will EVER be able to accomplish that.

I don't get the damages to Mensinger, but maybe he's a very sensitive guy.  From what we know now, he was not followed home, but was left at the Monahan's bar when Righeimer took off and was followed by Lanzillo.  Is he mad because he'd have to buy his own Diet Cokes?  I guess we'll find out when he's called to testify about the damage he's suffered and the loss of income.  Doesn't one have to have a job to lose income?  Just askin'...

And, as I read those complaints, I wonder about Gary Monahan.  After all, if we believe the story Lanzillo is apparently telling folks, he was in Monahan's gin mill with an attractive associate to entrap him into some kind of an illicit affair.  You'd think that if ANYONE should be feeling persecuted and be stressed out about this event it would be Monahan.  And yet, he is not a party to the lawsuit.  Doesn't that seem just a little peculiar?

And, as I read those complaints, I couldn't help think of the employees of the city who have suffered in the toxic workplace created by those two men for more than two years.  It seems to me that EVERY ONE of the phrases used apply precisely to most, if not all, the current and past employees who have had to deal with the capricious, thoughtless, heavy-handed methods those men have tried to use.  I wonder whether any of them - or all of them - have read this complaint and considered filing a similar action against Righeimer and Mensinger?  Seems like something to consider, doesn't it?

All this chaos that has transpired over the past couple weeks - and, actually, for the past couple years - has made me contemplate just what kind of leaders we have trying to run this city.  I do know more than a little bit about leadership, having made a very nice living identifying and recruiting leaders in industry for more than three decades.  As I was contemplating Costa Mesa's leadership over the weekend a Facebook friend fortuitously posted a very interesting seven-minute video clip featuring several Harvard University professors and others who addressed "The biggest mistake a leader can make", which you can view HERE. But, before you click on that link, here's a sneak peak of some of the things they cited:
  • Putting self-interest ahead of the best interests of the institution or organization they run.
  •  Betraying trust.
  •  Being certain.  If you think you know everything, why bother to listen?
  •  Failure to live up to their own values.
  •  Being so enamored with their vision that they lose all capacity for self-doubt and lack the ability to look at the consequences of their actions.
  •  Personal arrogance  and hubris.  It's demotivating for most in the organization and increases the chances of making big mistakes.
  • Acting too fast.  Step back and consult, then act.
  •  When it's all about the leader, not in service of something bigger.
  •  Not being authentic, consistent and predictable.
  •  Not being self-reflective.  Failing to hold up a mirror to themselves and consider their impact on other people.  The worst leaders just bulldoze, plow through life, not learning through their mistakes.
I watched that tape and, as I suspect many of you will, had this feeling of deja vu - like I've heard this all before.

I've known some outstanding leaders in my lifetime - including some in this city - and was fortunate enough to work for a few of them.  The majority on the City Council - the people elected to lead this city - share none of the characteristics of those men and women I recognize as outstanding leaders.

Perhaps Jim Righeimer and Steve Mensinger will step down to preserve their own mental and physical well-being - and to permit them to earn a living - and allow us to place true leaders in their chairs on the dais.  This city needs those kind of people in leadership roles - right now!



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Anonymous where's my coffee? said...

Geoff, I suspect its because of the negative attributes you listed that they will not step down. These two really think they are sane. Both lie consistently, but Steve is very blatant about being a liar. Yes Steve, you are a liar.

As for his damages, a good attorney can have him tossed from that case in a week. He has no damages, suffered nothing, and went on to win his election (sadly). So where's his loss? Nada, zip, zero!

In fact, the complaint states also, that Lena Righeimer went into the street to confront the driver. She placed herself in (what she allegedly perceived) as a dangerous position.

The complaint also states something so nonsensical its unbelievable. Para. 101-102 states that referring to the suits in this matter, was dropped in his favor. (WHAT?) And if it had been continued, it would have been found in his favor (WHAT?) That makes no sense.

Well, laughing, I am so glad they found themselves a good lawfirm! I feel so much better now.

8/26/2013 06:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Maybe the simplest answer is the correct one- plaintiffs just need the money.

8/26/2013 08:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Hold em Accountable said...

Riggy is just so embarrassing for Costa Mesa.

He goes Bat-Crap crazy when delayed by a DUI checkpoint, yet when his friends build a road over Federally protected land, he is silent.

If the Feds sue Costa Mesa, are Riggys friends an "unfunded liability?"

Fountain Valley was smart by not electing him.

8/26/2013 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

Yes, Geoff it is long overdue for both Righeimer and Mensinger to step down from their CM CC positions.
The mental injuries they claim make it impossible for them to continue with their duties as councildudes.
Heck, Mensinger thinks it is no big deal to destroy part of a Federally protected vernal pool. There's your proof of mental instability.
For them to not do so would directly contradict their injury claims in their lawsuit.

8/26/2013 12:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Ken Nyquist said...

I suppose to be taken seriously, I should spell Righeimer correctly from now on…I butchered the name in another comment I had yesterday…Calling him King Righmeier was kind of immature…Kind of like wonton rather than wanton in a most serious lawsuit….I would not want your readers to think I was trying to insult Mayor Righeimer by spelling his name wrong….Although saying Mayor Righeimer out loud does sound like I am ordering a baloney sandwich or some kind of marmalade at the courthouse luncheonette…

Uttering Mayor pro tempore Mensinger under my breath sounds like something I used to read out of a Dr. Seuss book to my kids… “I'm afraid that sometimes you'll play lonely games too. Games you can't win 'cause you'll play against you.”

You know how important kids are to our civic leaders….Oh and don’t forget the developers….or the financiers…almost forgot the real estate folks…restaurant big wigs…contractors of course…the homeless and those nasty communist soup kitchens are a priority…

When I think of the first house I rehabbed in College Park…College Lumber was my favorite place to shop…Kerm Rima was a real man…So was Jim Edwards…Those were the days…Before the flippers arrived…

I will admit that if I owned a corner bar in Costa Mesa, I might have a drinking contest to see if I could come up with a new name for a hangover…Possibly MptM…Empty Mind Comes To Mind …Maybe Wantone Too…Since I don’t own a bar, I can only look to the council chambers for that contest…

Of course if I did not plow my sorrows in alcohol, there is a tawdry little steakhouse on Newport with a happy hour sign outside next to the bicycles where I could drink Diet Coke ….Commiserate with my kind of people….

Out of respect for Mr. Mayor and Mr. Mayor pro tempore and their sharp legal team, I am quivering in my boots waiting for the other shoe to drop…I am sure as a citizen of Costa Mesa I can expect to be sued for living in Costa Mesa and causing people mental problems …Reminds me of Nixon again….Did I say Martha Mitchell out loud….I hear the closet door opening….Kent State possibly…Where is General Westmorland when you need him….Get me Liddy on the phone…….

I can not believe that I had been a staunch Republican since my first vote for Nixon….Now I get to deal with more politicians acting like him…Where is George Orwell when you really need him to write a book about how to run a city council…

Thank God there is video of council meetings….

Shall I expect a letter in my P.O. Box from some plaintiff’s legal council making sure that the content of any written statements here remain above the belt…I think you are allowed to write the truth though… Or of course if you are a comedian like me, and your subject is in the public sector….Take artistic license…Let me see now…I am sure that there is a cause of action in writing this somewhere….

Since this is quote Dr. Seuss day and you must read between the lines to know what I just wrote….. “I’m glad we had the times together just to laugh and sing a song, seems like we just got started and then before you know it, the times we had together were gone.”

8/26/2013 04:17:00 PM  
Blogger Gericault said...

In other BREAKING NEWS...we hired ONE police officer...and Barry started a YouTube channel...THAT's what the rest of the city is reading.

8/26/2013 08:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Atlas Shrunk said...

Why is it that people feel they can build anything on public property. While I do care if there were fairy shrimp or other protected items, that is a secondary concern.
The primary concern is the theft of public property.

8/26/2013 09:43:00 PM  
Blogger Tina Wilcox Gold said...

At this point I'm thinking they're going to get as much publicity out of this suit as they can and then drop it when it suits them no more.

8/26/2013 11:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Heart for Costa Mesa said...

Re other breaking news...Barry started a You-Tube channel? Is this Barry-the Code-Enforcement Narc, the most unpopular man in the Mesa Verde Tree Streets? That Barry?

Now that Jim is openly campaigning with his own videographer in tow, Barry has finally got a job! Yay! Maybe he will stop skulking around the neighborhood taking pictures of suspected code violations.

Is BFF Barry getting paid from Jim’s campaign funds? I'm just wondering if it’s OK for Jim to take City staff along with him on the campaign trail, there were 7 or 8 paid City employees with him on the campaign stop Barry filmed. Oh he’s not campaigning? If Barry is getting paid (a GOP insider says he is) it blurs the line a bit, doesn’t it? Maybe that’s another rule that doesn’t apply to the emotionally fragile mayor, that he can’t use City resources to campaign.

Jim gave the East-siders a lot of soundbites but not much substance, which we duly noted. What he did propose he said would cause the City to be sued 6 ways from Sunday, which we also duly noted. If only he would use a little foresight for a change, and find ways to solve problems without dragging the City into expensive litigation. Lawsuits are his answer to everything. He just loves them, but they solve very few problems and waste quite a lot of the taxpayer’s money.

8/26/2013 11:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

Whatever the hell happened to "innocent until proven guilty?" As far as I've heard, there've been no conclusions about the legality/illegality of Lanzillo's actions, nor has there been any tale told about for whom he was working at the time of the diet coke incident; no conclusions from the DA's investigation. Is it proper just to sue somebody you don't like when there is no evidence in regard to his action in a matter where you have allegedly been wronged?

The other side of the whole thing is... what kind of whimpy behavior is this? Jim and Steve put themselves up there on the dais of their own free will; they made bad decisions of their own free will; they justified those bad decisions of their own free will; they drank diet coke of their own free will. Then, when citizens express displeasure with these things, they curl up and go all crybaby on us.

The lawsuit looks like more crybaby stuff. "Oh, oh, he hurt my widdle feelings, and I'm never gonna be the powerful man my mommy wants me to be. Owie, owie."

Man up, I say. Buck up and quit sniveling, gentlemen; you made your nest, and now you'd better sit on the eggs you've laid there until they Hatch.

That's what you get for drinking diet coke.

8/27/2013 01:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...


8/27/2013 11:53:00 AM  

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