Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Accusations Fly At City Council Meeting

OK, let's get this out of the way right up front.  I was wrong!  The Costa Mesa City Council meeting that began Tuesday evening DID NOT run until 12:30 a.m. as I predicted.  It ended at 12:22 a.m. Wednesday morning!

And, as it turned out, the wait was worth it for the 20 or so residents who stuck it out. At approximately 12:07 a.m. resident Roger Chadderton, who had waited the entire meeting to speak, took his turn at the podium during the "trailed" Public Comments segment and accused members of the City Council of some hanky-panky dealing with the allocations of playing fields.  It seems Mr. Chadderton plays in an adult softball league on one of the fields at the TeWinkle Sports Complex.  He told the council and those of us remaining in the audience that his league - just three days after the field allocation had been confirmed - was told that they would not be able to use the field, and nor would a girls softball group on an adjoining field, because they had been ousted by Matt Leinart's Football program.  Chadderton looked directly at Steve Mensinger and accused him of causing that change - implying there was a USC connection.  Mensinger attended USC and Leinart was a Heisman Trophy winner from that school.  He further implied that Bob Knapp's recent departure as Costa Mesa Recreation Manager was a result of Knapp refusing to go along with the ouster of long-time group 1 users.  He demanded to know what was behind that move, and also demanded Knapp's reinstatement.

When Wendy Leece began to comment on the issue - demanding an investigation, Mayor Jim Righeimer came unglued!  He flew into a rage and said, "Investigation?!  Investigation?!  Oh, sure, let's just have the Police Department investigate this!"  Leece persisted and asked CEO Tom Hatch to investigate this issue and report back.

Almost immediately after Righeimer gaveled the meeting closed at 12:22 he and Mensinger charged down off the dais and up the aisle to confront Chadderton, who stood his ground as Mensinger angrily pointed his finger at him and denied the charges, although he did acknowledge that Leinart is his friend.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Early in the meeting, also during Public Comments, Yukon Avenue resident Kim LeBroux rose to complain about the recent tree removal hearing at the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting. She accused "a commissioner" of playing favorites dealing with the issue of pine trees that line the streets in the neighborhood, and of arbitrarily changing the way the hearing went - splitting it into segments - and steering residents to modify their claims to satisfy the city staff.  I watched that meeting... she was referring to Chairman Byron de Arakal.  She was steaming!  She demanded an appeal of the ruling and Righeimer commanded the staff to NOT remove ANY trees out there until this issue is resolved.

Not unexpectedly, many members of the public had taken much of their weekend to read every page of the 1,051 60th Anniversary Celebration Report, the many segments of which you can find HERE.  Eight of the 10 speakers accommodated in the first segment spoke critically of the report, providing more questions and demanding answers.  Two others stuck it out until after midnight to also complain about the report.  Several questioned the role of the Conference and Visitors Bureau, which apparently was used as a piggy bank to cover cost overruns for the celebration.   Members of the committee demanded a full accounting and a chance for the committee to convene and review the report and to be given the opportunity to present an "after action report" to the council - perhaps in a study session.

One of the most troublesome parts of the report is the circumventing of proper approval procedures.  Staffers - Dan Joyce and Christine Cordon - signed "for Mike Scheafer", the Chairman of the committee, when he had not given any approval to do so.  They just cut him out of the loop.  There are many questions remaining as a result of that report and many residents are demanding a much fuller accounting.

Oh, yes... about the rest of the meeting....

The three screening requests all moved on through the system, but not without serious discussion by residents, many of whom thought they represented an unhealthy trend to high density development throughout the city.  Several speakers observed that these kind of developments represent exactly what participants in the General Plan Update meetings opposed - higher density and more traffic.  Phrases like "Hodge Podge Development" and "Development Loopholes" were threaded through the comments.  Those concerns were brushed off by Righeimer during another of his rants.  Amusingly, Mensinger blurted out some irrelevant mention of the Unfunded Pension Liability - so far out of context and inappropriate at that moment that it made me wonder if he might have been dozing up there - or maybe he was distracted reading text messages.

At 10:00 p.m. the council got around to New Business #4, the major reorganization of the Development Services Department, HERE.  There was general agreement that Gary Armstrong, Director of Development Services and Deputy CEO, needs lots of help in his department.  The staff report shows dramatically growing demand for services from that department, which suffers from a severely depleted staff.   Retired Planning executive Perry Valantine stepped up to support the changes and the additional eight (8) positions.  So did former Development Services Director Don Lamm, now a consultant to developers.  During the discussion Mensinger - apparently looking up from his Iphone - tried to sidetrack the conversation with a discussion of something not on the agenda.  He wanted to not fill the Assistant Development Services Director position requested and provide an Assistant Public Services Director to Ernesto Munoz!  The guy is hopeless!  It was totally inappropriate for him to attempt to hijack the discussion on an item not on the agenda, but he just kept on punching.  After much discussion the council voted to accept the staff recommendations - without the Assistant Director position.  Instead, they may fill that slot with yet another consultant.  An interesting part of that discussion was Wendy Leece's inquiry of Hatch for his views since he had analyzed the needs and approved the presentation.  Hatch was wishy-washy with his response, so the position was dropped.

Following a relatively short discussion the council approved the request for funds to hire a consultant to help with updating the Open Space Master Plan, HERE.  This process might take as long as a year to complete, but it has not been updated since the 2010 census numbers have become available.

Then, just before 11:00, Righeimer announced that we were finally getting to the item "We've all been waiting for." - the Pension Cost Reduction Recommendations, HERE.  There were fewer than 30 people left in the audience by that time.  Interim Finance Director Steve Dunivent and Pension Oversight Committee Chairman Jeff Arthur formed a tag team and presented some very good information to the council.  Arthur outlined the work of his committee and showed slides of our current pension situation.  Dunivent presented more good information and the recommended solutions.  Those recommendations read as follows:

1. With respect to the Pension Oversight Committee 
     a. Receive and file the Pension Oversight Committee Report 
     b. Approve the distribution of the Committee Facts Volumes 1, 2 and 3. 
     c. Provide direction regarding the Committee’s future activities

2. Authorize the lump-sum prepayment of the City’s annual required contribution for the Miscellaneous and Police Retirement Plans beginning in July 2014.

3. Authorize the use of the City’s annual savings from the lump-sum prepayment of the Miscellaneous and Police Retirement Plans to make additional payments to the Fire Side Fund beginning in July 2014 with the goal of paying off this fund early.

4. Authorize the Finance Director, with the concurrence of the City CEO, to annually review recommended actions two and three and implement or suspend them each fiscal year as appropriate to the City’s financial condition at the time.

5. Authorize a one-time additional $1,000,000 payment to the Fire Side Fund this fiscal year using funds that were budgeted in FY 2012-13 and FY 2013-14.

6. Provide direction on continuing the practice of budgeting an additional $500,000 per year for the purpose of paying down unfunded pension liabilities.

During the discussion it was clear that Righeimer still feels that we really cannot do anything significant to reduce the unfunded liability.  At least twice he said that nothing will happen unless more cities file for bankruptcy, hastening to add that Costa Mesa is OK, but the state won't make the changes necessary until more cities go bankrupt.  He also said the employees should take the initiative, band together to tell Sacramento they are willing to take smaller retirements!

I thought it was interesting - and telling - that during his outlining of the things the Pension Oversight Committee covered during their tenure Arthur, at no time, mentioned the Municipal Bankruptcy Workshop they attended last year.

I think Righeimer is correct... unless all the players in this huge drama can find a way to collaborate on solutions nothing short of municipal bankruptcy can sort it out.  There are too many variables over which cities have no control.

In the end the council voted to modify the staff recommendations by authorizing a $1 million  payment to the Fire Side Fund, pay one year PERS contribution in advance, contribute $500,000 next year toward the Fire Side fund and have the Finance Director and CEO evaluate that plan each year.  They took the vote at precisely midnight - 4-0.  Gary Monahan had bugged out before this item was discussed.

I had the impression that members of the committee felt like their work had been validated - several were in the audience - but that few felt this was a complete solution.  We'll see how the discussion goes during the Mid-Year Budget Review at the study session next Tuesday.

It was another interesting meeting that spanned two days and saw Righeimer exhibit his rudeness and petulance more than once.  He REALLY needs to read my previous post about Fay Vincent's article...

Today, Wednesday, is the meeting of the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee meeting at the Neighborhood Community Center beginning at 6:00, HERE.  See you there.

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Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Should Stevie's title be changed to "Mayor Pro Bully?"

"Call for the question.."


2/05/2014 06:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Mary Ann O'Connell said...

Dang. I held in there until 12:04 but hunger and headache sent me home before the fireworks!

I think the overall theme for the night was corruption: Parks commissioners, the 60th anniversary,willy nilly changes to zoning and the general plan and then the sports fields. Watching who peeled off after the developers' presentations, there were at least 15 developers in the audience; they seem to be the new sheriffs in town.

The only presentation with integrity was Jeff Arthur's. Dismal news, but a great job.

The part that dismayed me most was having the council ask Tom Hatch, the man who failed to properly oversee the spending for the 60th, get the job to put in the new procedures. It's insane!!! Not one person on that dais was upset. It was a giant "my bad." Now let's move on. My trust level sank to a new low - and that's saying something.

2/05/2014 09:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's my Coffee? said...

So sad. Campaign promises that were complete lies, no surprise there, approved high density development because they make more money per unit, the troll trying to convince that people want these horrible boxes in our city, rather than viable development for industry that supplies jobs and revenue, the rejection of the adult baseball teams, the troll doesn't believe we have heavy traffic already, and that is just one meeting.

In the meantime, people get angrier and angrier.

Time to vote these guys out of office ASAP.

Capitellini and Ramos are more of the same. Beware.

2/05/2014 09:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Byron de Arakal said...

Any evidence of corruption among the parks commissioners, Ms. O'Connell, or just a baseless, flippant accusation? Wait…I'll answer that. It's the latter.

2/05/2014 10:38:00 AM  
Anonymous muffin top bob said...

Great picture Geoff, you have photographic proof that Mayor Pro Team(that's what the badge says) tried to rob a member of the general public with a fake finger gun, there's nothing that these guys won't do to get their way.

2/05/2014 11:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

So what WAS the reason for the adult leagues getting the boot to make way for Leinart's league after field assignments were confirmed? There's obviously a reason, and somebody knows what it is. Are we going to have to wait seven months for an answer? Why can't we ever just get simple, honest answers? That's what I think so many people are starting to have an issue with.

Maybe the boys will appoint the Heisman winner to a high-ranking position with the city as well, as he's been unemployed for quite a while now, at least as far as the NFL is concerned. Recreation Manager is open, correct? Seems like a perfect fit and photo opp.

2/05/2014 11:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Lots of people who never finished college have done well in life. Look at Bill Gates.

But I'm curious- Did Mensy ever get a degree from USC or will he just trade on his connections there ad infinitum?

2/05/2014 01:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Eileen Truxton said...

I've been trying to figure out how an innocent field scheduling error could escalate so quickly and why Mensinger and Righeimer reacted the way they did. Apparently, there are two flag football leagues. Matt Leinart's and one called Friday Night Lights. FNL has a webpage, created by Mike Murphy, and the registration checks are mailed to his office. Their group is using Jim Scott Stadium for football and cheer clinics, and the games are played on Friday nights at the Farm Sports Complex Leinart's webpage does not provide any location info on games. I've driven by and seen games being played at NHHS in the past, but I'm not sure if that is still available due to the upcoming renovations. FNL secured their fields, Mensinger's buddy did not. I would guess Steve promised a field he didn't have to try to impress somebody. So, he bumped the men's softball team to save face. How Bob Knapp fits into this I don't know. I did see that he's on Mike Murphy's face book page, so they worked together to provide accurate info on the FNL webpage. Righeimer jumped down Wendy' throat when she mentioned an investigation, so something is clearly not right.

2/05/2014 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger Marquis said...

I so agree with Mike McNiff. The thing that may annoy me the most about Righeimer and Mensinger is that we never just get a straight answer. They obfuscate, misdirect, stall, delay - anything to not answer something simple, like how Leinart football got the field allocation. When they do answer, it's condescending and/or confrontational. They're an insult to the collective intelligence of Costa Mesa.

I continue to be amazed at how Riggy thinks he can just keep this up and get re-elected. Think the softball league guys will be voting his way in November? How many friends will they pass the word to?

Please Jim and Steve, keep offending on all fronts. It's painful now, but it will really help in November.

2/05/2014 03:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

"They're an insult to the collective intelligence of Costa Mesa."

Unfortunately, that reminds me of an old joke from Seinfeld. But instead of intelligence, it's what percentage of the population is good looking. I think Elaine says 60%, and Jerry counters "60%? Have you been to the DMV lately? 5%, tops." Substitute 'informed' for 'good looking.'

The collective intelligence of the general population, not just Costa Mesa, is shockingly low in this 24-hour news cycle/vacuum. Seemingly intelligent people have no time for current events or the news, and if they don't pull their heads out of their collective rears, we're all screwed.

When it comes to any politicians, follow the money and favors granted, and therein you will find answers.

Now I'm going to g back to watching 'Duck Dynasty,' thank you very much.

2/05/2014 05:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Skeptical in Costa Mesa said...

I too gave up minutes before the highlights of the evening (or really early moring). Dang! Do we even dare to think about how bad things would be if king jimmy's charter had passed?

I was somewhat dismayed that no one brought up little prince stevie's up coming meeting with the 'Game Wardens". How can he explain to the state/feds. what he knows about the DG path after months of claiming he knows nothing when asked by the voting public? Anyway he tells his tale, it doesn't look good.

2/05/2014 08:32:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

My son travel ball team lost this field because of the football. This is a mandate from Messinger to find a place for his buddy. I know Costa Mesa United found out about this the other morning and they want an investigation also. We have Newport teams playing on our fields a new Matt Linert football program on our fields and this is all because of favors from certain people on the board. The dishonesty and the lies have to stop.

2/07/2014 11:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Disgusted Republican said...

While many people at the cc mtg Tuesday brought up the council men's campaign promises of reducing traffic (nothing but BS of course), why did no one mention Stevie's dream of this city being "Costa Mayberry"? That's the exact opposite of the high density housing and commercial development he's pushing for in this town for his out of town developer pals! His actions speak way louder then the two-faced drivel that comes out of his mouth. Speaking of drivel, did no one catch the RIGmeister giving himself away when he stated that having any amount of ethics training (as suggested in the 60th anniversary audit report for the city council and staff) is a waste of time because no matter how much ethics training you give some people, they aren't going to change (ie: the cc majority boys and all their cronies)?! And he's right - sociopaths could care less about ethics; ethics are for losers in their minds. And clearly he's anxious to sweep the whole waste of time and money 60th mess under the rug as he doesn't want an even closer look at what happened. Something more to hide, RIGmeister? No doubt! November can't come soon enough! Get these carpet bagging partisan career politicians and hucksters out of our town!!

2/07/2014 12:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

I am still wondering how that little troll knows there will only be 12 more car trips (I believe that is what he said) from the development on Whittier? How does he know what kind of businesses will go in those live/work units? How can he make a determination? These projects (and yes I mean "projects" in every sense of the word) are not right for Costa Mesa.

Geoff, I know Byron de Arakal is your friend, and I am sorry, but that guy just cannot be trusted. MaryAnn is right.

I have the feeling we now have taken on the concept of the USPS, wherein we have many, many more high paid top level employees than we do actual workers. There seems to be 3 chiefs for every 2 workers. The salaries these top levels make could cover 2 field workers. This has to stop. I bet the new addition to fill Knapp's position is OCGOP and a contributor to Righeimer.

2/09/2014 08:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Do you ever wonder why whenever there is some sneaky, underhanded act, that Mensinger is involved? He won't admit it, of course, but people are finally seeing it.

2/09/2014 10:44:00 PM  

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