Sunday, July 17, 2016

More Controversy About Smart Growth Initiative Rebuttal

And yet another curious situation has arisen in the case of Eleanor Egan's lawsuit against Costa Mesa City Clerk Brenda Green and Orange County Registrar of Voters, Neal Kelley, to have segments of the rebuttal to Arguments For the Smart Growth Initiative removed because the document "is not really a rebuttal, since it does not address anything in the Argument For the initiative measure."  She goes on to say, "most of the statements contained in the Rebuttal are demonstrably false, and the rest are not capable of being proven either true or false but are misleading and inconsistent with the requirement of the Elections Code."

The signatories on this so-called "Rebuttal" are Julie Fowler, Chuck Perry, Lee Ramos, Christopher Bunyan and Jim Righeimer.

I wrote about this issue earlier, HERE, and Luke Money wrote about it in the Daily Pilot, HERE.

Now comes the new twist.  Informed sources tell me that the City of Costa Mesa will be covering all legal costs incurred by Jim Righeimer in this matter!  And, further, the attorney that will represent him is Patrick Munoz, the high-priced lawyer from Rutan and Tucker - the firm that was retained to cobble together an initiative to compete with the Costa Mesa First's Smart Growth Initiative.  That certainly has the aroma of conflict of interest.
Now, I can see where the City will represent City Clerk Brenda Green - she is simply doing her job, and Egan's beef isn't with her, nor Neal Kelley.  Her complaint is that the rebuttal is false and misleading, as stated above, and she doesn't want it to appear on the ballot.  I have no problem with Green receiving city-paid-for legal help.
I DO, however, have a problem with my tax dollars being spent to cover whatever legal costs Righeimer incurs in this venture.  He signed the rebuttal as a private citizen, not as the Mayor Pro Tem of the City.  This issue was NOT addressed by the City Council, nor were they asked to waive conflict of interest - a very likely situation.  Instead, someone high up in City government simply decided to make a gift of taxpayer dollars to Righeimer to cover his legal costs in this misguided, malicous and falacious effort.
So, I want to know who made that decision and why?  What authority has been given to whom to make such a decision without council approval or even consideration?  Who decided that it's OK to spend our money to facilitate misleading the voters by placing lies on a ballot measure?  Was it CEO Tom Hatch?  Was it contract City Attorney Tom Duarte?  Just who made that decision?  And, if it's OK to cover Righeimer's legal costs, what about the other four signatories?  If they incur costs will we be paying those, too?  Quite frankly, this stinks!

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Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Whoever might be lying needs to 'fess up.

Would anyone be surprised to see OCGOP or developer money paying certain attorney's fees in this case instead of or in addition to city money?

This seems like another case of good dogs fetching when the stick is thrown.

7/18/2016 08:37:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Do not question the Great Leader when he leads.
Just do what you are told and cover the freight.

7/18/2016 08:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

This sounds like another DG path incident, where one takes it upon himself, without council approval, to do a job, not as an official of the city, just an individual, and then expects the city to support them. As I said, Costa Mesa is merely their ATM machine. The rebuttal arguments that Righeimer made to the Smart Growth Initiative are out and out lies. They needed to be fought. Good for Eleanor Egan. But as an individual, he is not entitled to any city support. However, in fairness, he wouldn't be the one coming up with the arguments (no matter how false and ridiculous) if he weren't on council. But then again, we wouldn't be going through any of this if he weren't on council. You'll notice, he couldn't get anyone with any integrity to sign with him.

Its about time someone called this guy out on his crap. It should have been done years ago.

7/18/2016 09:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Ken Nyquist said...

Although I voted for Nixon, served in the Army under him and believed in him, he let me down. I was on alert the day he resigned in case the Chinese or Soviets made a move that day. Attorney John Mitchell got to go to jail, the highest ranking attorney in the land accepting cash bribes. All it took was his wife Martha spilling the beans about what was in their closet to get to the truth.
The analogy here is a real one if you are old enough to have lived just need to get into the correct Costa Mesa closet.

7/18/2016 09:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Casual Viewer said...

Remember the last council meeting when Sandy asked Ms. Barlow (sorry, don't know her first name) if staff time could be spent writing ballot arguments and she said no. Jim had assumed he had the staff at his disposal. Duarte says yes to Jim's every request, whether legal or not. I hope the city isn't allowed to pick up the tab.

7/18/2016 09:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Robin Leffler said...

Casual viewer, yours is an excellent point. It was former Costa Mesa City Attorney Kim Barlow who answered her. She works for the same firm current City atty Tom Duarte works for, and IMO she is one of the sharpest tools in the shed. I doubt she called it wrong.

7/18/2016 07:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Robin Leffler said...

The lawyer Jim is using to defend himself is hired by the City and therefore is on staff. Sooo, if it's not ok to use a City Attorney to write a ballot argument how is it ok to use one to represent a writer of ballot statement?

7/18/2016 11:19:00 PM  
Anonymous WaterRat said...

Solid Landings, who owns the largest group of sober living homes in Costa Mesa, has gained a major victory, and the City of Costa Mesa is the loser. We handed Solid Landings a windfall.

This settlement agreement exempts Solid Landings from the city ordinance for up to 3 years.

The settlement agreement with Costa Mesa allows Solid Landings to take up to three years to operate without that pesky city ordinance in their way before the last of their homes are closed (Pg. 3, No. 3 Settlement Agreement and General Release) And once the three year exemption is exhausted, they will be able to operate under another name. Don’t get the impression that any sober living homes are going away. They are not!

The city has now relinquished all control of these facilities for up to three years. Once that time limitation is exhausted, Solid Landings will most likely seek state licensing which will continue to exempt them from the City sober living ordinance.

Residents were initially told that Solid Landings would vacate its building on 19th Street. In reality, Solid Landings is simply moving to a center on Airway and one on Bristol. Both facilities still in Costa Mesa. (Pg. 4, No. 4, Settlement Agreement and General Release).

Solid Landings is merely eliminating a few of their high-dollar properties that did not house as may clients as the multiple family units, so they will either be sold or leased, and there is a strong possibility that these homes will be sold or leased to other rehab facilities.

Without the controls of the city ordinance, the operators of these homes during the next three years, will be able to make a conservative estimate of Fifteen Million Dollars.

The City of Costa Mesa would have been better served to let this issue be litigated, as the ordinance would either stand or not. Now we will not know if the ordinance is valid. If it stood up in court, great. If it failed, then the ordinance could be re-written in such a way that it would satisfy the court. But now we are back to square one with all the other sober living homes.

This “landmark” settlement gained the city nothing. The question remains, who is profiting?

7/21/2016 10:36:00 PM  

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