Monday, February 24, 2014

McCarthy Berates Police Chief Gazsi

Last Friday Costa Mesa Planning Commissioner Colin McCarthy wrote to City Chief Executive Officer Tom Hatch, with a copy to Contract City Attorney Tom Duarte, expressing his opinion that Costa Mesa Police Chief Tom Gazsi should not be endorsing political candidates.  This blast apparently springs from a recent Daily Pilot article in which Gazsi is mentioned as endorsing Newport City Councilman and former mayor, Keith Curry, who is now a candidate for Allan Mansoor's soon-to-be-vacant 74th Assembly seat.   McCarthy requested Hatch consider his communication a "formal grievance" - whatever that means.

As you might imagine, this has caused a firestorm of controversy.  You can read Brad Zint's article in the Daily Pilot on this subject, HERE.  He quotes McCarthy extensively, including a follow-up interview in which he quotes McCarthy as stating that Gazsi's endorsement of Curry is "inappropriate".

Of course, as is stated in Zint's piece, Gazsi and Curry are friends for more than two decades.  Gazsi spent more than 30 years with the Newport Beach Police Department and knew Curry and his wife during that time.

After reading the text of McCarthy's letter to Hatch, his subsequent quotations in Zint's article and Chief Gazsi's response, I have a few questions.

1 - McCarthy criticizes Gazsi - who he says is "sworn to protect campaign laws" - yet he, as a planning commissioner, swore to defend the laws of the United States and the State of California.  As a lawyer, he seems more than willing to violate state and federal laws on this subject.  In addition to proposing to violate Gazsi's First Amendment rights, what McCarthy suggests - no, demands - is a direct violation of the California Government Code.  Specifically, it violates section 3300-3313, which is known as the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act.  Section 3302(a) reads as follows:

"Except as otherwise provided by law, or whenever on duty or in uniform, no public safety officer shal be prohibited from engaging, or be coerced or required to engage, in political activity."

That seems pretty darn clear to me!

2 - By filing a "formal grievance", does this process now require an investigation?  If so, by whom?  What penalties, if any, could result from such an investigation?  I searched the Costa Mesa Municipal Code and could find nothing about a grievance procedure except as applied in Labor Contracts.

3 - Gazsi says he consulted with the Costa Mesa City Attorney's office before endorsing Curry.  One must conclude that he received no guidance to NOT endorse Curry.

4 - I wonder what, if any, action Hatch took upon receiving McCarthy's memo?  Did he contact Gazsi on the issue?  If so, what did he say?  If he criticized and/or reprimanded Gazsi for endorsing Curry, it seems to me that he was violating section 3302(a) of the Government Code (above).

5 - If Hatch DID violate that state statute, what recourse might Gazsi have to protect the rights specifically bestowed upon him as a Police Officer in this city?  It seems to me that Gazsi might find the need to seek legal counsel in this matter.

6 - Costa Mesa Taxpayer's Association President Jim Fitzpatrick, who shares the planning commission dais with McCarthy, who also preceded him as President of the CMTA, chimed in with his views.  One quote from Zint's article caught my eye.  He said, "I support Gazsi, especially at this time when he's trying to change a culture at the CMPD."  Really?  I pay pretty close attention to what's going on in the city and I don't recall Chief Gazsi ever mentioning changing the culture in the department.  Quite the contrary!  The recent 60th Birthday Celebration of the department only further solidified the culture and history of an outstanding law enforcement organization.  Fitzpatrick and his cronies in the OC GOP for whom he apparently speaks may WISH Gazsi was changing the culture because it certainly clashes with their ideas, but I'm not aware of any directive from Hatch or anyone else to Gazsi to "change the culture" of the CMPD.  Since Fitzpatrick has few original thoughts rattling around in his head, I suspect what he's spouting is something he's heard as he snuggles up to his benefactors on the City Council.

As I type this the comment thread on the Daily Pilot article is building.  Every one to this point is extremely critical of McCarthy on this issue.  I think they are correct.  This is a petty bit of sniping at a highly-respected law enforcement leader who apparently just happens to support a man that the OC GOP sycophants in this city may not.  It is well known that Curry and Mayor Jim Righeimer share no affinity for each other.  It's easy to presume that McCarthy is voicing a view widely held by Righeimer and other members of his council majority.

It's astounding that these guys - Righeimer, his pal, Steve Mensinger, and cronies like McCarthy and Fitzpatrick - continue to jump from cow pie to cow pie, splashing that dung all over themselves.  I realize there's probably not a penalty for demonstrating such abject stupidity, but I wonder if a lawyer can be disbarred for advocating the violation of a person's rights as guaranteed to them by state and federal law?  Probably not - saying stupid stuff is protected by the same legal protection McCarthy would strip from Chief Gazsi.  In my view, this is just one more example of how the men in charge of this city today simply cannot tolerate an opposing viewpoint.  Just as Righeimer chose to stifle criticism at council meetings by chiding and mocking speakers and splitting the public comments segment to further inconvenience them, McCarthy would violate Gazsi's rights to keep him from supporting a candidate for state-wide office.  This is what happens in third world countries or totalitarian states, not a city in Orange County, California!

This is just one more example of the level of toxicity in the workplace at the City of Costa Mesa these days.  Shame on Colin McCarthy...

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Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

He is a lousy lawyer and worse planning commissioner. Keep ramming Righeimer's high density projects through for him. That's all you're good for.

2/25/2014 02:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Let's be thankful that charter did not pass as this is a example of what Riggy and crew would have in store. Vote no on the charter AGAIN or they will try to silence everyone more than they have at the city council meetings.

2/25/2014 02:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

There's a reason they call him "Colon."

2/25/2014 05:32:00 AM  
Blogger Gericault said...

Can you believe people actually gave money to get that putz elected? Alot of money.ColinMcCarthy is another embarrassment for this City. Can't wait until this sorry band of miscreants are sent packing.

2/25/2014 06:46:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

More attacks on CMPD, this time aimed at Chief Gazsi.

Remember in November.

2/25/2014 07:14:00 AM  
Anonymous apple said...

According to the Police Officers Code of Ethic, “Every criminal justice profession and association has "codes" of ethics, "canons" of professional responsibility, "statements" of values, "principles" of conduct, "standards" of practice, and "oaths" of office.” I believe Chief Gazsi upholds the Police Officers Code of Ethics. Chief Gazsi has proven to be a man of honor and respect time and time again. As a prior employee of the City of Costa Mesa; I can attest to the conduct of, Colin McCarthy, and let’s just say he was rude and condescending to Development Services staff. His sense of entitlement is abhorrent today as it was when I was part of the Costa Mesa family.

2/25/2014 08:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

Re: stupidity--

"Stupidity is the only universal capital crime." --Robert Anson Heinlein.

Re: Colon --

"Rectality is its own reward." --Terrell E. Koken

Tom Gazsi is my kind of cop, no less than Officer Bao. Law enforcement officer, machinist, railroad buff, and all-around nice guy. If McCarthy ever stood in front of a running lathe, half his body parts would be seen to be missing. This piece of felderkarp just demonstrates why it would be a bad move to elect him to anything. Righeimer is not a lot different. We should offer each of them a kleenex to wipe the fog off the glass navel they come equipped with for better vision in difficult positions...

2/25/2014 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

Colin McCarthy really put his foot in his mouth
this time.
He is a planning commissioner, yet feels he can tell our CM Police Chief what he can and can't do.
It's outrageous!

After this debacle, it's questionable whether he should be in our city government in any capacity.

2/25/2014 09:32:00 PM  

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