It’s been nearly three years since Mayor Mensigner and council member Righeimer filed a suit against its police officers. Currently, the case is in the Court of Appeals awaiting a decision, which could happen in weeks or months.
The facts remain the same, the short answer being we are being sued for something someone else did. We were not charged with any crime because we didn’t commit any crime. We cooperated since day one, and even waived our attorney/client privilege in front of the Grand Jury. No one does that if they are guilty.
During that time and even today to some extent, a lot of false intel is circulated. The facts remain today as they were then:
A law firm that many police associations in Southern California used for years—hired some private investigators—who decided to engage in questionable tactics while conducting background checks on people running for elected office.
Being represented by a law firm is not illegal. Using investigators to conduct background checks is not illegal. The fact is, we do not know what went on between the investigators and the law firm. However, at the first sign of impropriety, we fired the law firm.
Critics said we should have known better. For a full decade prior to this incident we worked with this law firm, principally because of the number of OC and SoCal agencies it represented. We chose this firm because others in our profession trusted them. That we got blamed, for something a couple private investigators did while supposedly following orders from a law firm, is unfair not to mention just plain crazy.
Newspapers referred to remarks some of our officers made at a retreat about the council members involved. Did some of our officers talk to each other about the named council members? Absolutely. Officers talk straight with each other just like other folks with work situations.
Lawsuits don’t come out of thin air. We know that the council members running for office were less than pleased that we (a) chose not to endorse them, and (b) shared the specific reasons why. As police officers, we owe it to our fellow officers to tell them the truth and we would do it again. The fact that the same council members we did not politically endorse are the ones suing is not a coincidence.
The fact—after 430 days—we still don’t have a contract and have only 102 officers for 136 spots speaks to the city council’s low priority of Costa Mesa’s public safety. That all of this is making an extremely hard impact on attracting and retaining candidates is a bitter reality. Choose between a city with a known contract, or one that is being sued by its mayor and council member and has no idea what or when a contract might be offered? The answer is obvious.
The sadder, more sobering fact is that Costa Mesans are the ones suffering, literally. Rape is up, theft and many other crimes…this isn’t all conveniently explained because of AB 109 and Prop 47. We need to be operating at full capacity: 136 officers, not 102.
Politicians wield a lot of power but to undermine their own city's police force by recklessly labeling the police officers’ association and its members as criminals is inherently wrong.
We are pretty sure this isn’t what Costa Mesans had in mind when these officials took their oaths. One can only hope they will soon put politics aside and get on the same page in making public safety a higher priority.