Republican party insider and OC Register columnist Frank Mickadeit broke news Tuesday of a lawsuit filed personally by Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer and Council member Steve Mensinger against the city’s police union, its former law firm, and an investigator for the former lawfirm. The lawsuit alleges all sorts of terrible things stemming from last year’s 911 call about a possible DUI that led to Righeimer’s doorstep. Righeimer wasn’t drunk and did produce a receipt for two diet cokes (which immediately reminded me of Scott Peterson producing a receipt from the Bay area marina on Christmas Eve when his pregnant wife went missing).
The LA Times story, which doesn’t have Mickadeit’s pro-Righeimer bias, reports details here. From the story:
Much of the lawsuit stems from an Aug. 22, 2012, incident in which private investigator Chris Lanzillo followed Righeimer as he left a local bar and restaurant owned by Councilman Gary Monahan, the Daily Pilot reported.
According to a 911 recording obtained by the Daily Pilot, Lanzillo called to report a potential drunk driver, whom he did not identify as Righeimer, driving erratically and reaching a speed of 50 mph down a residential street.
Police administered a sobriety test in front of Righeimer’s Mesa Verde home while his children watched in fear, the lawsuit alleges.
Righeimer was found not to be impaired and soon after the incident held a news conference where he produced a receipt for two Diet Cokes from Skosh Monahan’s.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, names the Costa Mesa Police Officers’ Assn.; Upland-based law firm Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir; and Menifee private investigator Lanzillo, alleging they intentionally inflicted emotional distress and violated civil rights, among 15 other complaints.
Righeimer’s wife, Lene, is also included as a plaintiff.
“They’re coercing and intimidating these people so that they change their vote in favor of the police association,” said attorney Vince Finaldi, who filed the suit on behalf of Mensinger and the Righeimers.
At the time of the incident, Righeimer accused political enemies of trying to set him up. He asserted that the association employed Lanzillo to tail him — an allegation the association strongly denied at the time.
I wonder why Gary Monahan wasn’t included in the suit as he was allegedly the original target of a PI hoping to catch the affable bar owner flirting with a pretty girl (something every bar owner should do). Somehow, the PI thought Righeimer’s driving was more attention worthy and made a 911 call.
The bottom line is Righeimer, Mensinger are going to have to prove a massive conspiracy between the Police Union, it’s Lawfirm, and it’s PI. Discovery is going to be interesting to watch. And if this case ever gets to trial, Righeimer and Mensinger are going to have to get on the stand and tell the truth under direct questioning. Let me repeat that. They. Are. Going. To. Have. To. Tell. The. Truth. Under. Oath.
I’m sure union lawyers are doing backflips on this one.
I thought the Police Union moved swiftly to address questions surrounding the incident with this op-ed in the Daily Pilot last year. Jason Chamness, union president, wrote:
The Costa Mesa Police Assn. (CMPA) demands a full investigation into any person determined to have followed and falsely reported that Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer was driving under the influence.
The CMPA had no knowledge or participation surrounding this incident.
The implications in the press and false accusations of wrongdoing by Mr. Righeimer against our members force us to respond publicly to clear the record as to our organization, its members and leaders.
Although there was a nexus between Lackie, Dammeier & McGill, the CMPA’s former negotiations law firm, and the private investigator who called the police on Mr. Righeimer, the CMPA knew nothing about it and does not have any relationship with the individual.
CMPA does not condone such activities.
Is Jim Righeimer someone who tells the truth? From several published sources, the answer appears to be … no.
The Voice of OC reported on how Costa Mesa and Righeimer determined the percentage of voters who supported him in the 2010 election, the amount of the city’s annual contribution to public employee pensions as being wrong, and what percentage Costa Mesa employees pay into their pensions.
Then there’s the CNBC interview Righeimer did in Lay of last year where he claimed the city couldn’t slurry its streets. Hat tip to the Bubbling Caldron for their coverage of this interview.
Then there’s Steve Mensinger’s claim his truck was vandalized and the Pop Warner field was also vandalized by union supporters. Mensinger is a Pop Warner volunteer, The councilman never filed a police report but has no evidence that union supporters vandalized his property. Unless the councilman produces photos of said vandalism, did it in fact happen at all? Does the union have a countersuit for libel against the councilman.
Yes, it’s going to be this kind of case. The plantiffs are going to have to back up their contentions with evidence. I’m not sure hwo someone who was cleared on DUI on the spot can claim defamation. It’s unclear who was assaulted. In fact a lot of the charges in the lawsuit don’t seem to carry a lot of water.
The funniest part of it all is these men live in fear of being set up by the union. Right because the CMPA is so “Boardwalk Empire” so “Sopranos.”
If the plantiffs have a case at all, it’s likely against the PI who all evidence suggests was acting on this own. And even then, what was the crime. The plantiffs would have to prove the PI knew who Righeimer was and targeted him. The Police Union’s law firm paid the price for a bad decision and was fired.
But proving a massive conspiracy in court is going to be fun to watch especially when Union lawyers start asking the plantiffs questions they might not want to answer. It’s going to be fun to watch.