Monday, May 02, 2016

Intimidation As An Art Form In Costa Mesa

Quashing public opinion through intimidation has become an art form in the City of Costa Mesa.  We've talked about this many, many times in the past, but let me tell you about the most recent, but probably not the last, attempt to discourage members of the public from criticizing members of the power elite in our city through the abuse of their official power to direct police activity against a resident.

During the City Council meeting on April 19, 2016 Terry Koken - who fancies himself somewhat of a minstrel/bard - stepped up as speaker #7 during Public Comments and used his three minutes to address the city council.  His was a fairly benign comment and included an offer to make the Fairview Park Initiative petition available to the council members to sign.  And, part of that time was used to sing a little ditty - a parody of an old Woody Guthrie tune,"This land is my land".  If you click HERE and scroll down to comment #7 you can hear Koken's tune for yourself.  Based on what I saw live, and later on streaming video, it seemed to me that his little tune was accepted as it was intended - a light-hearted bit of fluff for the council during a completely non-confrontational comment by Koken.  Mayor Steve Mensinger apparently thought the same, since he thanked Koken and offered a light-hearted response about "Lynyrd Skynyrd".  And the meeting moved on.

Parody lyrics to that classic tune have been sung in one form or another by many people over the years, including Pete Seegar singing them to an elementary school group four decades ago.  In fact, this song has so many parodies that it's hard to keep track of them.  For example, this 17 second parody by someone named Richard Chang sounds VERY much like Koken's version.

Keep in mind that Koken has crooned to the council many times over the years.  One time then-mayor Gary Monahan attempted to have him silenced, but City Attorney Tom Duarte reminded him that singing is protected free speech.  Here are the parody lyrics that Koken sang on April 19th:

This land is my land,
It is not your land,
I've got a shotgun,
And you ain't got one,
If you don't get off,
I'll shoot your head off, 
This land is private property.

Now, I must admit that, sitting in the rear of the auditorium, that "shotgun" reference got my attention, but I thought no more of it because nobody on the dais appeared to take offense to it.  The mayor's light-hearted response seemed to affirm that.  However, there apparently WAS more to it based on subsequent events.

A week later, on April 26th, Koken attended the Jim Righeimer/Jay Humphrey debate of the Smart Growth Initiative at the Halecrest Community Center- a packed-house event also attended by Mensinger.  After the debate was over Koken passed by Mensinger - who was a hulking presence near the exit - and shook his hand.  According to Koken, Mensinger pulled him close and made a remark about consequences of the ditty he had sung.  Another man, a political operative and known associate of the power elite, was nearby when this occurred and made a comment that Koken could expect to be contacted by the California Highway Patrol... a strange comment, indeed, so Koken just shrugged it off.

However, early the next morning, April 27th, Koken received a telephone call from Costa Mesa Police Sergeant Scott Stafford, a member of the Professional Standards Bureau, requesting to interview him.  Stafford showed up at the Koken residence a half-hour later and spent the best part of the next hour talking with Koken about the "ditty" while recording the conversation.  At one point Koken asked who generated the complaint and Stafford declined to say, even though Koken indicated the evidence suggested it was Mensinger.  Stafford declined to confirm or deny.

Following the interview, during which Stafford was very professional,  Koken showed him around and discussed his woodworking projects.  It was all very conciliatory and after the tour Stafford left.

An hour or so later Stafford called Koken and said, "I forgot to ask you one question.  Do you have any firearms in the house?"  Koken answered, "I don't publish that information."

Based on that last conversation Koken suspected there may be a search warrant in the offing, so he contacted an attorney and briefed him on the situation.  He was told that no judge would issue such a warrant.

Koken subsequently told me of an attempt to intimidate Koken and compatriots as they sat behind a table in a booth at Fairview Park, collecting signatures on petitions for the Fairview Park Preservation Alliance.  A Code Enforcement officer observed their signs from a distance, then drove into the park and stopped near the booth.  She was observed photographing the signage, then approached the booth.  She offered no criticism, nor did she cite them for any irregularity.  When she was asked why she was there she told Koken and his associates that "the mayor had requested her to investigate them."  As you might expect, this had a chilling effect on them and might have had an even more chilling effect on folks who might be inclined to sign the petition.  And this is certainly another abuse of the mayor's power.

I've had a conversation with Koken and he also provided me with written details of these encounters.  Subsequently I contacted members of the Costa Mesa Police Department to, 1) understand the process by which an officer would be dispatched to interview a resident and, 2) to find out who made the request.  Following those conversations, including a very cordial, helpful and professional conversation with Chief Rob Sharpnack, I'm comfortable that the members of the CMPD involved simply followed the proper protocols.  They received a complaint, investigated and, once the report is complete, it will be discussed with the District Attorney.  And nobody is talking about who initiated the request.  Apparently this information is only available after there is a resolution to the situation.  Based on the circumstances portrayed to me by Koken, I suspect it was Mensinger, who has a long-established record of attempting to intimidate folks with opposing views - but don't know for sure.  At some point in the near future a Public Records Request may be submitted to fully flesh-out this situation.

Do you recall the now-infamous Steven White case?  White, an employee of The City, was accused of stealing campaign signs during an election in which Mensinger was running for City Council.  That bogus claim cost White his job, but he was found not guilty of the alleged crime in court later.  At the time Mensinger was apparently on a stakeout with a private detective observing whomever it was doing the sign theft.  White has occasionally showed up at recent council meetings and is clearly not a happy man because of that situation.

Some of you may recall the attempts by Mensinger and his pal, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, to intimidate me a few years ago.  Each of them, individually, had an attorney - a guy who was married to Righeimer's sister-in-law at the time - write to me telling me I couldn't write about either of them in certain circumstances.  Well, I understand a little about SLAPP suits and told him as much.  I never heard from him again, but it's another good example of their attempts to intimidate opposing views.

In fact, they have institutionalized the process in City Council meetings by bifurcating Public Comments - restricting the time during which folks can exercise their rights to air grievances to a short span at the beginning of meetings.  Those remaining would be required to stay to the VERY end of the meetings - sometimes well after midnight - to express their views.  Most do not, so that practice has been effective in quashing critics.

And, of course, there is the persistent practice by Righeimer, in particular, of interrupting speakers in the middle of their comments, spitting back jibes at them as they depart the speaker's podium and calling them out by name.   They also use valuable time to rant on and on during Councilmember Comments to rebut critics.  This kind of intimidation discourages some speakers from taking the time - and risk of ridicule - to address issues they feel are important in the community.

You may recall how Righeimer and Mensinger formed a special Code Enforcement unit to work on their own pet projects - like adding enforcement muscle to encourage owners of "problem motels" to "reassess the value of their properties" - which would make them available to their developer-buddies at a price that could guarantee a healthy profit.  That Code Enforcement group has now been combined with the main group, but Mensinger apparently continues to use it as his own little private enforcement group.

Righeimer and Mensinger have demonstrated throughout their political careers that they are more than willing to abuse their power, bend the rules and to intimidate folks who oppose them.  Righeimer, in particular, will leap upon any pulpit he can find - radio, television or in the print media - to burnish his position.  And, some of recall his very attempt to throw his weight around when, as a planning commissioner, he barged into the middle of a DUI Checkpoint, demanding answers.

Here we have a situation where a member of the CMPD was dispatched based on "somebody's" claim that a misdeed - a threat - was done by Koken.  Contrast this to the bogus lawsuit filed by Mensinger and Righeimer - a lawsuit that still lingers like a dark cloud over the city to this day - in which Righeimer was reported to be driving in a manner suggesting he was impaired - he did come from a bar, after all - and a member of the CMPD was dispatched to interview HIM.  During that 90 second interview, Kha Bao, our most distinguished DUI officer, quickly determined that he was NOT impaired, apologized for the inconvenience and left.  However, Righeimer and his wife still filed a lawsuit against the men and women of the CMPD.

I find myself wondering if Koken is considering any kind of legal action against those responsible for this situation.  It's my understanding that he's awaiting a return call from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

It is clear that powerful members of the elected leadership of this city continue to be ready, willing and able to throw their weight around to intimidate residents who choose to speak out or otherwise show disagreement with them.  So, good people of Costa Mesa, be advised... as long as you elect folks like this to your city council you can expect intimidation and rule-bending.


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Anonymous Terry Koken said...

Thanks, Geoff.

5/02/2016 11:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Ken Nyquist said...

Sad news for Terry.

5/03/2016 06:06:00 AM  
Anonymous zennymoon said...

Total b.s. Mr. Mayor, next he will be voting himself a bodyguard. These actions of our mayor are so juvenile, vengeful and vindictive. Hang on Costa Mesa November FIVE full months away, the power of the vote will take the trash out...and in the mean time, there will be intimidation and the flexing of Mensinger's thug squad. Ah, wuss boy afraid of an old song sung by an old man, to a cry baby wah wah, oh, oh be careful the Mayor will call a break because he can't control a council meeting....

5/03/2016 07:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Let us not forget that Mensinger has a habit of roaming the city with his friends, taking pictures of peoples' private property and if he doesn't like what he sees, he instructs code enforcement to go out and attempt to cite the residents. To me this smacks of gestapo tactics.

Our mayor, once again, is directing city personnel for his personal interests. This is not the chain of command. All requests from the council members should go through our city manager..or in this case the CEO, to handle. It is not up to council members to call department heads directly to dispatch them to an incident of his choosing.

Lastly, I listened to the little parody that Koken sang to the council. After the song he said it was nothing personal, just a little song. Clearly, you'd have to be seriously grasping at straws to make a threat out of that. Looks like the Mensheimer train is starting to derail.

CHP? Really?

5/03/2016 07:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Epic post Mr. West!

If Stevie is the one behind the persecution of Koken, he ought to be ashamed of himself and immediately apologize to the people of Costa Mesa for this attack on the First Amendment.

Stevie is a known bully. He bullied an airline clerk at JWA over some meat while inferring that he was in law enforcement:

Stevie bullied a school teacher because he cannot take criticism:

Up in the Central Valley where Stevie was raised, he was probably one of those kids who tipped over cows for fun.

He calls himself a USC "alumnus," but that term also includes those who attended but didn't earn a degree. Mayor Stevie should disclose to the voters what his education actually consists of so they can make an informed decision. Does he really have a degree or is he hiding behind the term "alumnus?"

5/03/2016 08:06:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Why does Mensinger hate so much?

5/03/2016 09:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

So let's see. Here's a few of the bully tactics that come to mind:

Mensinger flashing a fake badge at an airline attendant at JWA telling her that he can have her fired.

There are one, if not two, sexual harassment lawsuits filed against him.

Hired private investigators to sit and watch his campaign signs, and then blamed the wrong guy (who fortunately was found not guilty in court). When they thought they knew who it was, half of Mensinger's friends showed up in the guy's yard. Pathetic.

Hired private investigators to follow city employees around in their personal after work hours while dining with their wives, etc.

Walks throughout the city photographing peoples' private property to turn into code enforcement for fines.

Chest bumped a teacher at a football game. Probably a full foot taller than the man he chest bumped. Total bully tactics.

Threatened the CMFA for cooking hot dogs for the car show. Afraid they are polishing their reputations for an election. (Seriously!)

Got a Pop Warner coach fired because the coach objected to offensive language by kids against each other.

Oh and let's not forget the installation of an illegal decomposed granite path in Fairveiw Park using city personnel once again.

Illegally and without permission connected the snack bar at Parsons Field to the electricity at Waldorf School.

Had city employees remove hazardous chemicals from the snack bar (Pop Warner) to the city lot to be transported at city expense.

At a recent football event, where Mensinger was a "delegate" sitting on the platform, loudly booed a coach of a team of 7 year old students as they entered the field, because the coach isn't a supporter. (Actually Mensinger is the athletic supporter)

This is all I can think of before another cup of coffee. Please feel free to add to this list.

5/03/2016 10:14:00 AM  
Anonymous davidonlorenzo said...

If the police department did not construe the song to be a criminal threat to anyone, then why did they even waste any time investigating the complaint?

You can't have it both ways--either it was a criminal threat or it wasn't.

Just because some lone, paranoid person complained that he (or she) felt threatened due to a song about protecting one's property rights being sung in a public forum doesn't justify a police interview of Mr. Koken.

The interview--as well as any other police investigation--of Mr. Koken seems unwarranted and, at worst, politically motivated.

5/03/2016 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger Honeyman said...

Dunno if it's a bad link or they are really tearing up the first amendment Geoff but when I try and view Terry's song, I get: Permission Denied.
Please contact your System Administrator to obtain additional permissions.

5/03/2016 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

I'm advised that there is a glitch in the system that is currently being worked on and "should" be fixed within 24 hours. No, it's not a conspiracy to keep you from viewing Terry's ditty. :-) Once the feed is available again I'll re-link to it if necessary. It's not just that meeting, but ALL the council videos for the year. If you want to see it sung by someone else, click on that link for the kid singing it.

5/03/2016 01:03:00 PM  
Blogger Honeyman said...

Adding to Coffee's ever-growing list, this might be considered hearsay since I can not confirm it as fact, but was posted on Nextdoor in October '14. I am acquainted with the individual who made the post and know him to be trustworthy.

Just wanted to say something about Mensinger's character. A few years back my daughter was supporting a function as a cheerleader at Estancia. She was resting on a golf cart with other girls on the cheer team and Mensinger drove up in another golf cart and instead of braking he accelerated into the cart my daughter was resting on and smashed her leg between the two vehicles. My daughter called and I ran to the school to pick her up and take her to emergency to have the gash in her knee stitched and to ensure nothing was broken. I asked her what happened and she explained the whole situation where they were resting, Mensinger collided, and then proceeded to yell at my daughter for being on a golf cart! No apology. Nothing. I went back over to the school to confront him and request that he apologize for his accident. He was no longer at the school. I was telling the story to someone and didn't realize his wife was standing by me listening to the story and my request. Her response was "there are 2 sides to every story." No lady. There isn't in this case. SO years later and still no apology, my daughter has a scar the size of a quarter that will always be there to remind her of the man that never apologized for maiming her and yelling at her for his irresponsible actions. These are not the actions of a man of character. We need people with integrity and character to run our city. Vote responsibly. Had i done that to any child, an apology would be the first thing out of my mouth, immediately followed by an offer to take the child to emergency or call the parents, or both.

5/03/2016 01:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Honeyman, so sorry to hear about this, but sadly it isn't surprising. This man is a bully and a narcissist. They do not see themselves as wrong ever. Nor will they apologize, at least not sincerely. I can't believe anyone would intentionally (I assume it is as he has brakes on his) or unintentioinally injure a child and not at least apologize. Frankly, he should pay for the bills. He is fortunate you didn't go after him in court. I would have.

5/03/2016 03:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

Honeyman: Sounds to me like a straightforward case of felony hit and run with injury. It was on public property. I don't know if it's only a crime to hit and run when it occurs on a street. The D.A. should know.

At least, the city police should investigate, since it was a moving violation.

Maybe the Mayor, being the person where the buck stops in Costa Mesa, should turn himself in and demand, to protect his law-and-order bona fides, that the police investigate this potential crime.

This sounds like a bigger deal than the PI allegedly siccing the cops on Righeimer for allegedly DUI. After all, in this case, a person was injured and had to go to the hospital and now has a scar. I don't imagine that Righeimer had an injury that severe.

5/03/2016 04:58:00 PM  
Blogger Honeyman said...

This did not happen to me, I was reiterating a story posted on Nextdoor almost 2 years ago. The source seems very reputable

5/03/2016 08:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Tom, Rig's injuries are all emotional and mental (see complaint against CMPOA)

5/03/2016 08:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

And a couple more for the list: Mensinger has a couple sexual harassment suits filed against him and Argyros. And last night when confronted about calling the police on Terry Koken, he remained silent. Wouldn't even own up to it or deny that he did it. What a coward.

Oh yeah, let's elect this bumbling baffoon to our council again.

5/04/2016 07:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

Desiring to read more about people's reactions to the council majority, I stumbled upon something called the dirty goat blog. Talk about an alternate reality, or to use a more descriptive term, a pile of lies. That's one link I won't be clicking on again.

5/04/2016 02:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Chris McEvoy said...

Terry they don't punch that hard.����

5/04/2016 06:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Terry Koken said...

Today, 11 May, 2016, at 4:11 PM, I got a call from Lt. Everett of the CMPD, who assured me that the District Attorney's office had no interest in persecuting my case. He indicated that the DA had received the case on or about Friday, and had returned the "no interest" verdict by Monday. 'S all right; I suffered no angst in the intervening four days, and, unlike Righeimer and Mensinger, my nights are not troubled with dreams. I asked the Lieutenant for information as to who had instigated the criminal complaint, but he had none; said that Chief Sharpnack would be the only one who could supply the information on that. I told him that absent evidence to the contrary, I would assume that the instigator was Hizzonner Mayor Mensinger, and indicated I'd talk to Chief Sharpnack. In my opinion, the incident constitutes misfeasance on Hizzonner's part, at the least, and possibly malfeasance. Certainly when we see it in conjunction with the code-enforcement harassment in the park the weekend of the 15th, to which there are three witnesses to the code enforcement officer's admission that Hizzonner requested the harassment, we have a strong body of evidence that something is rotten in the city of Costa Mesa.

See you next Tuesday.

Remember in November!

5/11/2016 11:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

I find it absolutely hysterical and at the same time pathetic, that their own Julie Mercurio, the newest candidate for city council, who has always defended Mensinger and Righeimer in their attempts to stifle public comment, show of support of the residents, or even giggle at city council meetings is now crying a different tune, when Katrina asked the Chief to ask Julie to quit streaming the budget meeting because it was distracting. She has a right to film. The residents have a right to clap. They have the right to giggle, cheer and support the other residents in their comments. Yet, the hypocritical Mercurio now wants the attempts to stifle made very public. But only where she is concerned apparently.

Is this the kind of hysterical behavior we can expect if she is elected? Remember in November. Stephens, Humphrey and Genis.

5/12/2016 07:02:00 PM  

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