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Good Guys Win One In Court – Righeimer And Mensinger Defeat Union’s Bogus Legal Ploy

Posted by Greg Woodard on April 14, 2014

[Warning, boring legal stuff ahead, but it is important].  Many OC Political readers are familiar with the plight of Costa Mesa Councilmembers Jim Righeimer and Steve Mensinger as they have failed to back down to aggressive (and allegedly dirty) union tactics.  For those of you unfamiliar, Righeimer and Mensinger have filed a lawsuit against the police union, the union’s former law firm, and an investigator previously used by the law firm, alleging, among other things, that the defendants have engaged in spying, threats, intimidation, assault, and false reports of criminal activity.  Recently, they have alleged that the defendants illegally placed a GPS tracker on Mensinger’s car during the last election.

Apparently, the defendants have been stonewalling Righeimer and Mensinger, including the investigator repeatedly asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during his recent deposition as Righeimer and Mensinger are trying to get to the bottom of who is responsible for the tracking, and other purported illegal activities.

Enter the defendants’ lawyers for another round of delay.  They recently filed what is called an “anti-SLAPP” motion.  In a nutshell, an anti-SLAPP motion alleges that Righeimer and Mensinger have violated the defendants’ right of petition or free speech.  While enacted for good reasons, sadly many lawyers abuse the process because filing an anti-SLAPP motion automatically stays all discovery, preventing Righeimer and Mensinger from getting important facts and documents.  In addition, filing an anti-SLAPP motion early in the case forces the plaintiffs to factually defend their claims, even if the defendants are in possession of the facts and documents needed to proved the case, or risk having the lawsuit dismissed.

The defendants’ motion claimed that the principal thrust of the lawsuit is the 911 call that the investigator made against Righeimer, falsely accusing Righeimer of driving drunk.  The Court rejected that claim, denied the motion, and held that the main thrust of the action is the false and malicious reports of criminal activity by the investigator as an agent for the other defendants.

So what does this mean?  It means that for now, Righeimer and Mensinger can continue with their discovery and hopefully find out whether the law firm, the union, or both, were behind these dirty tactics.  It also means that the Court did not buy the defendants’ bogus claim that their alleged illegal activities are protected.  It also means that Righeimer and Mensinger are as committed as ever to exposing the union and its efforts to shut down any attempts to rein in its power.

Righeimer and Mensinger have had their personal lives put under a magnifying glass because of their efforts against unions.  They have been followed, falsely accused, illegally tracked, and had their families dragged into the fray.  Yet they refuse to be scared or threatened into giving up.  We should applaud these men and their families, support them, and look for other leaders like them in our communities to support and get elected to local, state, and federal positions.  Only then can we begin to make inroads into the unions’ enormous power over California.

Posted in Costa Mesa, Orange County | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Mission Viejo’s Public Records Retention Policy, Or Lack Thereof, Needs Review

Posted by Greg Woodard on December 17, 2013

The Public Records Act, along with the Brown Act, are the two most important state statutes that are supposed to provide open and transparent government from local city councils, boards, and other agencies.  Mission Viejo needs to review its document retention policy to determine whether it is being as transparent as possible.

On October 24, 2013, Mission Viejo resident Larry Gilbert made a simple Public Records Act request for all communications between Dennis Wilberg, the Mission Viejo City Manager, and the city managers of Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente regarding Gilbert and the Community Common Sense newspaper from August 1, 2013 to the date of the request.  Gilbert knew Wilberg had sent an email on September 12, 2013 to the San Juan Capistrano City Manager referencing Gilbert and Common Sense because he had received a copy of it from a friend.  However, even though Gilbert made the request just over 40 days after Wilberg sent the email, the City responded that it had no documents responsive to Gilbert’s request.  At the December 2, 2013 City Council meeting, when pressed by Gilbert about his request, Wilberg stated that he had deleted the email so it was no longer available for production.

Given the proliferation of email accounts among local elected officials and staff, the issue of email retention has become increasingly important.  In late 2011/early 2012, an Anaheim Planning Director told staff, under the threat of disciplinary action, to delete old documents and electronic files.  Earlier this year, a Modesto attorney sued to stop the city from automatically deleting emails that were more than 30 days old.  Open-government advocates are alarmed at the short duration that some local agencies keep emails before purging them.

As these and other cases demonstrate, cities and other local agencies struggle to balance the need for public transparency with the need to maintain their records in an efficient manner.  While state law does not state how long emails should be retained, it does require many records be maintained for two years.  Moreover, many open-government advocates assert that purging after 30 days is neither required by law, nor in the spirit of guaranteeing the most open and transparent government possible.

I asked all five Mission Viejo council members to provide me with the city’s document retention policy, as well as whether the city had done any analysis of the cost of keeping emails longer than 30 days.  I only received a response from two council members.  Rhonda Reardon stated, “we need to take a good hard look at our email retention policy.  The questions you raised are good questions and will be the basis for our discussion on our communication retention policy in 2014.”  Cathy Schlicht stated that she not aware of any city-wide purge system in place for emails, and that when she was assigned her email account she was told never to delete emails.  Schlicht said that she only deletes the non-city addressed emails from various organizations and some staff emails on items such personal holiday greetings, out of office responses, as well as the City’s newsletters.  Schlicht keeps all official communications between herself and staff, as well as email exchanges between council members and the public, and between council members themselves.  Schlicht maintains that she has her emails back to 2008 when she was elected to the City Council.

It appears that there is a disconnect between what Schlicht was told (never to delete emails) and what Wilberg did (delete an email within 40 days of receiving it).  It is this type of disconnect that raises the real possibility that important (or incriminating) documents are being deleted, and that is why Mission Viejo, as well as all other Orange County cities, needs to review its public document retention policies and ensure that its efforts err on the side of the public and open government.

Posted in Mission Viejo, Orange County | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Family Action PAC Recognizes Steve Mensinger For His Public Service

Posted by Greg Woodard on December 10, 2013

The Family Action PAC held its annual Christmas Party on December 5, 2013.  Part of the festivities included presenting “Red Tie Awards” to individuals who have made an impact in their community.  This year, Costa Mesa City Councilman Steve Mensinger was awarded the “Excellence in Public Service” Red Tie.  Many know the trials Steve and fellow council member Jim Righeimer have endured at the hands of the unions during the years that they have been fighting for pension and other reforms in their city.

Steve and Jim have filed a lawsuit against the Costa Mesa Police Officer’s Association, the Association’s former law firm, and one of the firm’s investigators.  The lawsuit alleges a pattern of harassment by the defendants during the 2012 election campaign.  One of the allegations is that the defendants sent a woman into a local restaurant and bar where Steve and Jim had gone, in an attempt to get Steve in a compromising position, which they failed to do.  While at the restaurant, the defendant investigator then followed Jim home and called the police alleging that Jim was driving erratically.  The police came to Jim’s home late at night and administered a sobriety test in front of his wife and young daughters, which Jim easily passed considering the strongest thing he had to drink that night was a Diet Coke.

Recently, the Orange County D.A.’s office revealed that a GPS tracking device was placed on Steve’s car during the time he was campaigning for re-election in 2012.  Steve and Jim have added an allegation that the defendants are responsible for the GPS tracking device to their lawsuit.  Steve has likened the ordeal to a John Grisham novel, and the law firm representing Jim and Steve calls it a sophisticated conspiracy, “straight out of the Watergate diaries.”

Jim introduced Steve at the Family Action PAC luncheon, and at the end of his speech the emotion in the room was palpable.  Jim also put a very human face on the issue, pointing out the impact not only on themselves, but also on their wives who were in attendance.  Steve, ordinarily very vocal, was visibly affected by Jim’s words, and was only able to choke out a thank you to Jim and all of the attenders.

If proven, the illegal, immoral, and invasive actions of the unions and their cohorts should be severely punished, both in a court of law and in the court of public opinion.  If unions are resorting to these activities to protect their stranglehold on local city and county politics, they must be stopped.  We should all applaud individual like Jim and Steve who are not afraid to stand against the money and power of the unions as they seek to make their cities a better place for their residents.

Posted in Costa Mesa | 4 Comments »

Did San Diego Public Officials Conspire With Unions To Enter A Labor Friendly Contract For The San Diego Convention Center Expansion, In Violation Of A Local Proposition? The Secret Email Accounts May Tell The Story.

Posted by Greg Woodard on July 3, 2013

San Diego, our neighbor to the south, has had its share of political intrigue over the years.  The most recent iteration is an incestuous mix of Republican, Democrat, union, and big business involving the $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center.  In the 1950s, California adopted open government laws to protect the integrity of the political system and guarantee transparency in the political process.  These protections have been eroded over the last few years as open government laws have failed to keep up with technology like emails and texts.  The cloak of secrecy thrown by San Diego public officials regarding the Convention Center expansion project is the most recent example of an attempt to return California government business to the days of backroom deals negotiated far from the public’s view.

Our story begins in June 2012, when the San Diego voters passed Proposition A, a ballot initiative known as the “Fair and Open Competition in Construction Ordinance.”  Prop. A amended the City Municipal Code to prohibit the City from requiring a contractor to enter into a Project Labor Agreement (“PLA”) on City construction projects, except where required by state or federal law, or as a condition of the receipt of state or federal funds.  A PLA is a collective bargaining or similar labor agreement, entered into with one or more labor organizations that establishes the terms and conditions of employment on a City construction project.  A PLA can often result in higher labor costs for the City when a project could otherwise be negotiated with private, non-unions contractors.

The Convention Center expansion project proposes adding approximately 200,000 – 225,000 square feet of exhibit space, 100,000 square feet of meeting space, and an 80,000 square foot ballroom.  In addition, the proposal would add a new hotel, as well as a waterfront park, open space, retail space, and a pedestrian promenade.  During 2012, the City sought proposals for a company to act as project manager for the expansion of the Convention Center.  In October 2012, the City selected Clark/Hunt as the project manager.

Throughout 2012, various labor unions and environmental groups filed a series of lawsuits challenging aspects of the Convention Center expansion project.  On November 8, 2012, the City entered into a settlement agreement with the unions and environmental groups that resolved all of the outstanding lawsuits.  In exchange for the groups’ support of the expansion project, the City agreed to pay $30,000 in legal fees purportedly incurred by the labor plaintiffs in the different lawsuits.  At the same time the City was entering the settlement agreement, Clark/Hunt announced that it had signed a PLA with local unions in connection with the expansion project.  Also on November 8, 2012, former Republican Mayor Jerry Sanders held a press conference to announce the settlement with several union representatives, including Lorena Gonzalez, then head of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Central Labor Council.  Gonzalez is now representing the 80th District in the California Assembly.  Gonzalez has previously expressed her opposition to Prop. A.

Public records on file with the San Diego Superior Court show that, beginning in January 2013, a local watchdog group submitted a request to the City under the Public Records Act, the state’s open government law, seeking copies of the PLA as well as other documents related to the expansion project.  The City stonewalled the group, and in April 2013, the group filed a lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court.  After the lawsuit was filed, the City produced some documents they claimed were responsive to the group’s request.  On June 3, 2013, Thomas Zeleny, San Diego’s Chief Deputy City Attorney, sent a letter to the group’s attorney enclosing two emails that Zeleny claimed had recently been brought to his attention as responsive documents.  One of those emails, dated September 21, 2012 (included with attachment below), was from Julie Dubick, then Chief of Staff for Mayor Sanders.  The email, which appears to be from her San Diego public email address, was sent to Gonzalez at her union email address.  The email included an attachment of apparent talking points for the settlement that had been reached between the City and union groups.  Included among the points are: (1) the Mayor would schedule a meeting with Marriott (the potential hotel on the expansion project) and support labor’s position; (2) the Mayor would attempt to effect an agreement between the general contractor and labor to effect an agreement “similar to the PetCo Park agreement” (PetCo Park was built with a PLA with unions); (3) the Mayor would appoint a labor-friendly member on the Convention Center Board (which he subsequently did); (4) the unions would dismiss their lawsuits and not further challenge the expansion project; (5) the unions would write a letter to the Coastal Commission supporting the expansion project; and (6) the unions would attend the October 1, 2012 City Council meeting and support the expansion project.

The most interesting part about Dubick’s email is that it simply says, “Here is suggested language.  Please confirm receipt to jpdubick@gmail.com.  See you at 2pm today.”  The gmail account Dubick instructed Gonzalez to send a response to was not her official public email address.  That raises an interesting question as to why Dubick would instruct Gonzalez to contact her through her private email account, rather than her public email address.  Unfortunately, we do not know if or how Gonzalez responded because the City has not produced any further documents from either Dubick’s public or private email accounts.  When asked by the group’s counsel if there was a widespread practice for City employees and elected officials to conduct official City business through private email accounts, Zeleny responded, “for all I know, all of the City business was run through Julie Dubick’s private email account . . . [pause] just joking.”

The irony is that the two September 21, 2012 emails were only discovered by the City Attorney because they were later attached to another email sent through the official City email network.  Had the emails not been forwarded as attachments through the official network, they would never have become public even though they clearly reflected the City’s public business.  The brevity and tone of the email also suggest prior discussions between Dubick and Gonzalez about the attached talking points.

As a result of the City Attorney’s discovery of the two emails, the City Attorney is investigating whether the PLA for the expansion project violates Prop. A, saying that the emails “raise questions that need further examination.”  The group has discovered several other private email accounts that it believes have been used to conduct extensive City business, but the City has not produced any other responsive emails from private accounts to date.  The group also has turned over all of the issues discussed in the lawsuit to law enforcement officials.

The City also produced the Mayor’s calendar as part of the group’s Public Records Act request.  The calendar indicates that the Mayor had several meetings and phone calls relating to the expansion project in September and October 2012.  One meeting was scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on September 21, 2012, the same day Dubick sent the email to Gonzalez.  Dubick’s email stated that she would see Gonzalez at 2 p.m.  I reached out to Assemblywoman Gonzalez for comment on whether she responded to the email (and if she would provide me a copy of any response), to what account she responded, and whether she attended that meeting or any other meeting regarding the expansion project.  Gonzalez’s Chief of Staff, Evan McLaughlin, responded that Gonzalez does not recall responding to the September 21, 2012 e-mail, and finds the storyline of the group’s lawsuit hard to believe.  He stated, “[a]s head of the Labor Council, Ms. Gonzalez always attended meetings to advocate for better wages for local workers, but she did not negotiate contracts – that’s the job of individual unions, not the Labor Council.  This sounds like another act of desperation by the same handful of anti-worker companies who are doing everything they can to drive down wages for local workers.”  McLaughlin did not confirm whether Gonzalez did respond to the email or whether she attended the September 21, 2012 meeting with the Mayor and Dubick.

Other documents produced by the City prove that, rather than ask that Clark/Hunt provide the City with public documents held by Clark/Hunt for the benefit of the City (as required by the Public Records Act), the City instead sent copies of responsive documents to Clark/Hunt for “review and approval” prior to releasing them to the group.  This practice is specifically prohibited by the Public Records Act which prohibits the City from allowing a third-party to control the disclosure of information otherwise subject to disclosure under the Act.

In sum, it does not look good for the City regarding meeting its obligations under the Public Records Act.  More troubling is the appearance of a widespread conspiracy by public officials, unions, and the general contractor for the circumventing of Prop. A by agreeing to a PLA in exchange for the unions dropping their legal challenges against the expansion project.  This conspiracy may have been aided by undisclosed communications between the Mayor’s staff and union representatives, including Assemblywoman Gonzalez.

Given the recent flap over the state Democrats’ attempt to gut the Public Records Act (Gonzalez initially voted for the gutting of the Act), as well as prior revelations that the former head of the federal EPA created a fake person and used “his” private email account to contact environmental groups and others to avoid requests for public documents similar to the request made by the group here, the City’s less than candid response to the group’s Public Records Act request should give pause to all San Diego residents.  In addition, a local public official’s use of private email accounts raises troubling questions of accountability and transparency.  The City Attorney himself has admitted to using a private email address to conduct City business.  He claims to review those emails and send the ones that relate to City business to his public account and respond through that account.  Can we be sure that other local and state officials are as thorough and conscientious as the City Attorney?

Many questions with respect to the documents requested by the group will be answered at the July 12, 2013 hearing on the lawsuit it filed.  Other questions will undoubtedly linger for some time after.

Dubick email (San Diego Convention Center Story)_001Dubick email (San Diego Convention Center Story)_002

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Assembly Democrats Join Senate Democrats In Assault On Public Records Act (Updated)

Posted by Greg Woodard on June 19, 2013

Following up on Chris Emami’s story from yesterday, as reported by the OC Register today, the Assembly passed AB76, which has identical language to SB71, and will be submitted to Governor Brown for his signature.  Every Republican legislator in the Assembly and Senate (except Tom Berryhill – 14th Senate District who is listed as “Other”) opposed both AB76 and SB71, and just a single Democrat voted no for either bill (Senator Leland Yee – 8th Senate District).  If Governor Brown signs the bill into law, it will eviscerate the open government protections of the Public Records Act by making local agencies’ compliance with the Act voluntary instead of mandatory.

Courts interpreting the Public Records Act have consistently held that the Act is to be read broadly in favor of disclosure of documents to the public, and the Act has only a few categories that are exempt from disclosure (and when a local agency refuses to provide documents, it must explain why).  Under AB76, disclosure will be voluntary, meaning that local agencies can refuse to provide documents, and do not have to provide any reason for the refusal.

Ironically (or perhaps not when it comes to Democrats and their legislative tactics), AB76 was added as a budget trailer bill.  Trailer bills are often drafted in secret, sometimes just days or hours before they are voted on in both houses of the state legislature.  You read that right, a bill that allows local agencies more secrecy and less transparency was drafted in a most un-transparent manner.

Journalists often use the Public Records Act to sniff out public corruption.  The City of Bell scandal was exposed in part by use of the Act, as have many other stories of local government waste and fraud.  In addition, private individuals and groups often use the Act to obtain documents needed to challenge local government decisions that affect their property or the environment.  If the changes to the Act become law, local agencies who are hiding things from the public will no longer be compelled to produce any documents, and scandals will go unexposed.

Assemblyman Don Wagner, 68th Assembly District, says AB76 highlights the dangers created by the Democrats’ stranglehold on power in Sacramento: “AB 76 shows why the entire public — Republicans and Democrats alike — should be worried about one party rule.  Eliminating compliance with the Public Records Act has nothing to do with the budget.  So why is this abomination in a so-called Budget Bill?  Because Democrats have complete control and can do it this way to avoid the public scrutiny that comes with committee hearings and an open discussion through the normal legislative process.  This bill, written behind closed doors without a shred of bipartisan input, shields even more government behind those very same closed doors.  The public should be appalled.”

As Emami said in his story, this is a terrible bill that will have a dramatic negative impact on local government transparency.  Democrats apparently believe that secretly passing bills that allow local agencies to act with more secrecy is good government.  I hope that most Californians disagree.


As Don Wagner mentioned yesterday, Sacramento Democrats have done one of the most rapid u-turns ever (perhaps the nuclear retort from the media inspired them).  Wagner reported this afternoon that the Assembly voted today to pass the same budget trailer bill as AB76, but without the provisions that would eviscerate the Public Records Act.  While the Senate initially resisted similar efforts, reports are coming out that they will acquiesce and pass a similar bill to the Assembly’s fix.  Governor Brown is expected to sign the fix, therefore preserving the Public Records Act in its current form, which is a good thing for all Californians.

Wagner also reported that both the Assembly and Senate will propose constitutional amendments to eliminate the state’s obligation to reimburse local agencies for Public Records Act compliance.  (Warning, boring political inside baseball stuff ahead).  Apparently, when the Legislature ended redevelopment agencies (another measure that crossed the aisle considerably), the local agencies got too cute and started seeking reimbursement from the state for the cost of every minute copy, office supply, etc. that they incurred for compliance with the Public Records Act but previously had not sought reimbursement for.  That may have taken the Democrats in Sacramento by surprise but unfortunately their “fix” would have ended open government as we know it in this state.  I guess the moral for Democrats is not to target the media’s bread and butter because they actually start doing their job when you threaten the source of their juiciest stories.

I would like to return the favor and thank Don for all of his information and for all of the Republicans in Sacramento and their efforts to undo this terrible stinker of a Democratic bill.

Stay tuned in case there are even more breaking updates.

Posted in California, State Assembly, State Senate | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Lake Forest City Council Member Announces New Policy Of Appeasement

Posted by Greg Woodard on December 10, 2012

I went to last Tuesday’s Lake Forest City Council meeting to watch the swearing-in of the two newest council members, Dwight Robinson and Adam Nick.  Before the ceremony, I was treated to a clinic in how not to run a city.  The most contentious agenda item was the staff’s recommendation that the council repeal its ordinance passed last year banning registered sex offenders from public parks.  District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has spearheaded Orange County’s effort to get local cities to adopt an ordinance that bans registered sex offenders from parks.  Since last year, 15 Orange County cities have adopted such ordinances.

Unfortunately, not all of the cities have adopted ordinances verbatim to the county’s ordinance, which contains a mechanism that allows a registered sex offender to request a waiver from enforcement.  Lake Forest, for some reason, passed its ordinance without a waiver and they got sued by an anonymous plaintiff claiming the ordinance violates his constitutional rights (he says he served his sentence more than 15 years ago and is now married with children).  That leads us to Tuesday’s meeting.  During the public comment portion of the discussion, several people affiliated with California Reform Sex Offender Laws (yes, there is an organization out there advocating for the rights of registered sex offenders) testified, using the same “constitutional rights” buzzwords.  I will resist the urge to inform these folks of the numerous ways that our constitutional rights are properly regulated every day and just say that we agree to disagree.  One speaker from the group also compared their effort to repeal sex offender laws to segregation and the civil rights movement.  She then announced that in 30 years we may have a President who is a registered sex offender.  Janice Belluci, the President of the organization, told the council that she has two more plaintiffs ready to sue the city if it does not repeal the ordinance.

The Lake Forest City Attorney also chimed in on the existing lawsuit, as well as lawsuits that are pending against other Orange County cities.  He said that, while he did not like to disclose the city’s war chest for litigation, in this case he would make an exception.  He proceeded to tell the Council that defending the lawsuit could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.  In an OC Register article, the City Attorney also said that one of Belluci’s two plaintiffs is seeking $36 million in damages.

I will reserve my rant about City Attorneys trying to influence policy for another day, but suffice to say, all of this got the attention of outgoing Mayor Kathryn McCullough (she will remain on the Council for at least two more years, but her term as Mayor is up).  In a testy exchange with Rackauckas, who had come to encourage the Council to maintain the ordinance, McCullough cried foul on the cost of the litigation and challenged Rackauckas to agree to indemnify the city for all of its legal fees.  Rackauckas held his ground and shot back at McCullough that she knew that the DA does not indemnify cities.  Once the grandstanding ended, McCullough essentially announced to all present that the city could not afford to fight the lawsuit because of the legal costs.

The Council then took a vote with little to no comment from any council member (other than Scott Voigts), which was shocking considering the gravity of the action the council was going to take.  After outgoing council member Mark Tettemer tried, and failed, to pass off responsibility for the vote to the new council (he said he was not trying to avoid voting), the council voted 4-0, with Tettemer abstaining, to repeal the ordinance.  And thus apparently began Lake Forest’s new policy of caving to anyone who threatens or files a lawsuit against the city.  This is a monumentally bad policy for any council member to support, but to announce it during a public council meeting, as Council member McCullough did, strains common sense.

It looks like new Council members Robinson and Nick will have an opportunity to chime in on the planned repeal since there has to be a second reading of the repealing ordinance at the December 18 meeting before it can take effect.

Posted in Lake Forest | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Investigator Tied To Union Law Firm Admits To Trying To Set Up Costa Mesa Council Member Gary Monahan In Sexual Sting (Updated)

Posted by Greg Woodard on November 13, 2012

While many of us conservatives are still licking our wounds from Tuesday, we get more information about the vile attacks those on the left will resort to in an effort to further tighten their grip on our wallets, our government, and our future.  Case in point – Frank Mickadeit reported last week in the Orange County Register about the thuggish tactics that the opposition in Costa Mesa to the City Council majority (now consisting of Jim Righeimer, Gary Monahan, and Steve Mensinger) will use.  Many of you will remember the harrowing story a couple of months ago where Righeimer was tailed home from Skosh Monahan’s by Chris Lanzillo, an investigator who worked for a law firm that represented the Costa Mesa police union, as well as many other public employee unions in the state.  Lanzillo appears to have made a false police report claiming that Righeimer stumbled out of Skosh Monahan’s and was driving erratically on his way home.  The police took the unprecedented step of going to Righeimer’s home and conducting a sobriety test.  Righeimer passed with flying colors, since all he had at Skosh’s was a diet coke (he had the receipt to prove it).  However, the damage was done as Righeimer’s young daughters had to watch in horror, wondering if their dad was going to be arrested.

As if that were not bad enough, Righeimer was not even the investigator’s target.  As Mickadeit reports, Lanzillo was hired by someone (he wouldn’t say who) to try to catch Gary Monahan, Skosh’s owner, in a compromising position with a woman who had been sent to entrap Monahan, who is married.  The woman appeared to be in her 30s, she wore a low-cut top, and she was flirting with Monahan.  Nothing came of the event, but Lanzillo got his “bonus” when Righeimer showed up.

Lanzillo also admitted that he was hired to dig up dirt on Mensinger and Colin McCarthy, who ran with Mensinger and Monahan but fell short of his City Council bid.  McCarthy responded to the article, saying “that these kind of dirty tricks keep good citizens from running from local office.  It definitely  has a chilling effect on our democratic process.  I hope the DA prosecutes this guy.”

The District Attorney is investigating the event, and hopefully the shameless thugs who did this will be revealed and prosecuted.  While Lanzillo will not admit who hired him, anyone who does not think it will tie in somehow with the unions, well I have a bridge in Brooklyn I would love to sell you.


The plot thickens.  To answer Dan Chmielewski, a crime may have been committed by Lanzillo and others.  Tony Saavedra reported in the Orange County Register today that county prosecutors are investigating Lanzillo on a “conspiracy to file a false police report” with the possibility of more serious charges to come.  The investigation has expanded to include another private investigator who works for Lanzillo.  Both men had their houses searched and cell phones, computers, and other electronics were taken for analysis.  In addition, prosecutors have a search warrant for the cell phone records of police union lawyer Dieter Dammeier, who has employed both investigators in the past.

Saavedra also noted that there is a separate investigation in El Monte, where the former city manager filed a police report last year that said he was followed for days by a car similar to the one Lanzillo owns.  Lanzillo would not confirm or deny that he is the one who followed the city manager.

Stay tuned as this story does not seem to be going away any time soon.

Posted in Costa Mesa | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Introducing Capistrano Unified School District Candidate Jim Reardon

Posted by Greg Woodard on November 5, 2012

I thought I would take a brief break from South County City Council candidates and focus on Capistrano Unified School District, which has recently had multiple recall elections, extremely rancorous elections, and pitted battles between conservative and unions.  I reached out to Jim Reardon, Steve Lang, and Bill Perkins, all of whom have been endorsed by the Orange County Republican Party.  Unfortunately, I only have heard back from Jim as of today.  While I would like to have a post with all three, in fairness to Jim, I wanted to at least put his information out for public consumption before tomorrow’s election.

Jim Reardon

Jim is running because he has had a decades-long commitment to education.  He is a product of public schools and he is not happy with the direction of the current Board and its all cuts approach without any concessions from the union.  Jim said that he is benefitting from a newly re-drawn district that has no incumbent, making his election competitive.

Jim believes that the primary problems facing the district are: (1) a reduced school year (furlough days will reduce the year by 3 weeks); (2) program cuts in both the school schedule, and in the services provided; and (3) the district’s massive accumulated debt and deficit.

Jim said that all of these problems stem from the contract the district has with the union.  He noted that 92% of the district’s current expenditures are for employees, leaving little remaining for the students.  The district can re-open the contract with the union this fiscal year, and Jim sees a great opportunity to make significant changes.  Jim wants to re-open the negotiations as early as possible and work in a calm manner with the teacher’s union to reach a resolution.  For example, he wants to get the district back to a full 180 days of education within 1-3 years.  Eliminating the furlough days helps both the teachers (more money as those days are currently unpaid) and students (more learning opportunities).

Jim pointed out some of the problems with the existing teacher’s contract that are magnifying the district’s fiscal problems.  For example, the current contract gives teachers 5 hours of pay for work that they do not even have to show up for.  He wants to combine cuts, suspension of tenure-based pay increases, and modify work rules as part of any new contract with the teachers.

Jim also wants to improve the working relationship between the district and the union.  He said the Board needs to publicly develop goals for negotiations in will undertake with the union.  To emphasize public goals and transparency, he will push for Board sessions to be televised on Cox, or streamed on the internet.  Jim also wants to start early (in the winter) and engage teachers, parents, and any other interested parties in setting the goals, and then engage in negotiations.  Jim said that the current Board does it backwards – they engage in secret negotiations with the union, then try to publicly set goals, even though they already have completed the negotiations.

Jim said that teachers are neither over nor under compensated – they are paid what the Board agrees to pay them, and the Board cannot pay them more money than the district has.  He believes that the current overall package offered to teachers is unsustainable and concessions have to be made, possibly from both sides.  Jim wants to combine three factors (1) working conditions (hours, responsibilities, instructing time requirements, class size, etc.); (2) the rate of pay; and (3) how much money the Board has in any negotiations, where in the past Jim says these factors were disconnected from any union negotiations.  He noted that the district’s enrollment is declining but labor costs are escalating resulting in kids in larger classes, for fewer days, with less instruction while the median rate of teacher pay has gone up due to adjustments for seniority (when teachers are laid off, the newer teachers who are the lowest cost to the district, must be laid off first per union contract requirements).

Jim is endorsed by, among others, the Orange County Republican Party, the Lincoln Club, the Atlas PAC, the Family Action PAC, and Orange County School District member Robert Hammond.

You can find out more about Jim at www.votereardon.com.

Posted in Capistrano Unified School District | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Introducing Lake Forest City Council Candidates Dwight Robinson And Adam Nick

Posted by Greg Woodard on November 2, 2012

In my continuing series on South County candidates who sought the endorsement of the OCGOP, we reach our northernmost city, Lake Forest, which Mayor Pro Tem Scott Voigts likes to call the “Gateway to South County.”  The two candidates are Dwight Robinson and Adam Nick.

Dwight Robinson

Dwight is running for city council for the residents’ children and businesses, and to make sure that Lake Forest continues to be a great city to live, work, and raise a family.

Dwight believes that traffic congestion is an important issue facing the city.  Dwight plans to work closely with OCTA to make sure the city is getting its fair share of Measure M funds and is using those funds for light synchronization and future road construction projects, including the completion of Portola Parkway.

Dwight also feels that the city’s regulatory environment is too burdensome for businesses.  He plans to hit the ground running and review some of the city’s ordinances (first and foremost the sign ordinance) to make sure the city is not impeding businesses from promoting themselves.  Dwight says that, in the midst of an economic slump, the city needs to be working with businesses, asking them how the city can partner with them as they create jobs and serve the community.  Dwight believes the city needs to start acting like it is pro-business and stop paying lip-service to it.  Dwight adheres to the old mantra that actions speak louder than words.

Dwight said that employee compensation of some of the city’s employees is too high (especially the council members).  Dwight will start with proposing that the city eliminates council pay and benefits.  He believes that by starting with holding themselves accountable, the council will then have some moral authority to start discussing some of the other employee pay, perks, and benefits that need to be retooled or removed.

Dwight noted that the property rights of existing residents need to be balanced with the rights of property owners of undeveloped land or lands that needs redevelopment.  He said that the rights of one should be balanced with the rights of another…one should not outweigh the other.  A few thousand new homes will be built in Lake Forest in the coming years and Dwight knows that more development will bring more people.  Dwight wants to make sure that infrastructure is provided to ensure Lake Forest remains a good place to live.  He said that infrastructure improvements are in the best interest of the developers who are trying to build and sell homes and in the interest of existing residents who want to maintain their current quality of life.  Roads and traffic flow are the most important infrastructure issues that Dwight feels need to be planned for.  He said he will establish a Traffic Commission, similar to Irvine’s and Mission Viejo’s, so residents can bring forth traffic and transportation issues and staff can be made aware of the problems and held accountable for developing solutions to this issues.  Dwight also will make sure Lake Forest has the resources to address things such as light synchronization and road improvements.  Impact to local schools and other public services will also need to be address and Dwight said he will make sure that the city does not neglect the community’s infrastructure needs.  Dwight highlighted his experience as a business owner who needs to always be forecasting, projecting, and planning for the future, and he believes his private sector business experience gives him the unique skill set to help Lake Forest be great again.

Dwight is endorsed by, among others, Lake Forest Mayor Pro Tem Scott Voigts, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, the Orange County Register, the Orange County Republican Party, and the Orange County Taxpayers Association.

You can find out more about Dwight at www.robinsonforcitycouncil.com.

Adam Nick

Adam believes that, in a democracy, nothing is more important for keeping a government in check than a well-informed electorate.  He says that what largely sets us apart from most of the rest of the world is our Constitution.  One major fact in our Constitution is that the government derives its power from the people; not the other way around.  Accordingly, Adam feels that elected officials work for residents.  If they do a good job, we can re-elect them.  If they do not do a good job, we can elect someone else who will.  Adam is running because he believes he can do a better job for Lake Forest residents as their council member.

Adam wants to improve the city’s infrastructure, protect and improve its quality of life, uphold American principles and values, and plan for even a more prosperous future.  He said he will achieve this by stopping wasteful spending, reforming city management’s excessive compensation, eliminating self-serving agendas, ending cronyism, and eliminating the influences of special interests.

Adam noted that, though Lake Forest has been a city for over twenty years, on the current council’s watch, the city does not have a Senior Center, Youth Center, its own Community Hospital, or even a dog park.  Adam also said that the city has rented the building that houses City Hall and probably has paid more in rent in the last two decades than it would have taken to buy its own building for City Hall.

Adam also said that the current council failed to challenge the expansion and reclassification of the Musick Jail to house a more dangerous class of felons, despite the fact that many city residents live within walking distance of the jail.  He contrasted that with the Irvine City Council which initiated a legal action to stop the expansion/reclassification.

Adam also noted that the current City Manager’s compensation is $300,000.00+.  He also criticized the council members spending thousands of dollars per year in personal expense reimbursements for things such as taxi rides.

Adam believes that the city must operate in a manner similar to a profit-oriented business, with the utmost efficiency and with an appreciation that resources are scarce, meaning the optimal value for each dollar must be achieved.

Adam feels that his 30 years of Lake Forest residency, his experience as a local business owner, and his 21-year professional experience as an accountant and auditor collectively qualify and enable him to be the city’s best representative and advocate on the City Council.

You can find out more about Adam at http://nickforcouncil2012.com/.

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Introducing Mission Viejo City Council Candidates Frank Ury, Ed Sachs, Cathy Schlicht, And Wendy Bucknum

Posted by Greg Woodard on November 2, 2012

We now move up to my home town of Mission Viejo, home to a lake with great fishing, and consistently one of the safest cities in America.  Mission Viejo has two seats available and I now introduce you to four candidates: Frank Ury, Ed Sachs, Cathy Schlicht, and Wendy Bucknum.

Frank Ury

Frank is running for re-election to continue leading Mission Viejo in the right direction.  Frank says that the city (1) has a world-class quality of life and one of the safest cities in California; (2) is unrivaled with its parks, recreation opportunities, youth sports, and arts facilities, and (3) has a strong business climate.  Frank hopes to continue leading the city to an even brighter future for the residents’ children.

Frank said that there are those in the city who would like to cut back programs such as school resource officers, the Kids factory program, etc.  Frank stated he will continue to advocate for these programs, especially since in the past two years the city has put $2.8 million of its savings into reserves.  He believes the city can maintain its current programs.  Frank noted that, while many California cities are slashing budgets and filing for bankruptcy, Mission Viejo maintains a AAA bond rating and over 50 percent of its budget is safely in reserves.  In order to build a strong business climate in the city, Frank believes that the council should do everything it can to enable business; for example, listen to businesses to see what their needs are for traffic mitigation, signs, promotions, etc.

Frank also said that protecting the city’s standard of living and strong financial footing requires smart, fiscally sound decision-making at all levels of city government.  He believes that this includes fully reforming the pension system so the city’s liability is one of the lowest in California, which Frank said the council has done while he has served on it.  Frank stated that a prior council spiked the city’s pensions to the highest in Orange County for non-public safety employees, but two years ago the council reversed that and reduced the pension program from 2.7% to 2% at 60 for new employees (retirees will now get 2% of their salary for each year of service if they retire at age 60, as opposed to 2.7% under the previous council’s plan.)  Frank said that the council changed the pension plan well before it became a talking point.

Frank is proud of what city staff and a majority of the city’s council has accomplished to this point.  He believes that, after years of salary freezes, staff compensation is quite market acceptable.

Frank said that the city is almost fully built out.  He believes the council needs to conform to state laws, but aside from that, there are not many locations for additional growth.

Frank is endorsed by, among others, the Orange County Register,the Orange County Taxpayers Association, the California Women’s Leadership Association, and Congressmen Ed Royce and John Campbell

You can find out more about Frank at http://www.frank4mv.com/.

Ed Sachs

Ed is running for City Council to return fiscal responsibility, adequate reserves, and transparency back to the City Council on behalf of the residents of Mission Viejo.

Ed stated that Mission Viejo’s reserves are 52% today, but they were 75% a few years ago.  Ed wants to budget reserves funding within the budget by including it as a line item in the budget.

Ed also wants to address the recent Orange County Grand Jury report that gave Mission Viejo a “D” for transparency regarding salaries and benefits for city staff and a “D” for transparency on executive compensation for content and clarity.  Ed said that Mission Viejo was one of only 6 of the 34 cities in Orange County with poor grades.  Ed wants to make it easy (1 or 2 mouse clicks) for residents to use the city’s website to access compensation and benefits information.

Ed also wants to end the cost overruns for city capital improvement projects.  Ed said that city projects consistently have run over budget.  For example, the Marguerite Tennis Center’s initial budget was under $2 million, but Ed said it increased to $2.6 million with the addition of the clubhouse, and today is over $5.2 million.  Ed stated that the city has historically run projects in phases and with multiple change orders.  Ed wants to use his 30+ years of business experience to limit costs beyond what were originally agreed to.

Ed currently has no position on employee compensation because, as he said, it is difficult for a resident to understand compensation and benefits due to the city’s lack of transparency on this issue.  Ed stated that there currently are 134 city staff members and, if elected, he will evaluate compensation and benefits for all.  If he feels they are too high, he will try to reduce them, and he will consider laying off staff if necessary.

Ed believes that the city can attain a balance between the existing residents and future development.  He noted that Mission Viejo is fairly built out (as one of the first master planned communities in Orange County), but there are areas where additional housing could be built.  Ed said he will look at each project on its own merits and evaluate it based on its impacts on traffic, schools, and any other negative impacts to the residents.  Ed said he leans toward lower density and smaller high density projects as best fitting with Mission Viejo’s character and quality of life.

Ed is endorsed by, among others, California Congressman Darrell Issa, the California Republican Assembly, Atlas PAC, the Family Action PAC, and Mrs. Sachs.

You can find out more about Ed at http://edsachsformvcitycouncil2012.webs.com/.

Cathy Schlicht

Cathy Schlicht is running for re-election because she feels there is still a lot to be done.  Cathy thinks she is a voice of reason on the council and she does not like the direction the city is going and she wants to let the citizens know that, as she does on the council today.

Cathy wants to address the issue of electronic billboards in the city.  She said that developers are running a campaign to promote electronic billboards, and she believes they are trying to influence the council to vote for electronic billboards.  Cathy supports the current ordinances on signage and she opposes the proposal for off-site signage which would advertise national brands.

Cathy believes there is too much unfocused spending in the city.  She wants the city to take a look at the budget again and said the council is deciding spending from the dais, rather than in cooperation with the residents.  She wants to figure out the needs of the city and opposes spending the city’s money for political gain.

Cathy wants to continue promoting public safety that has led to Mission Viejo consistently being one of the safest cities in America.  She wants to ensure that the city has enough officers and attention to public safety.  She also wants better safety for the Youth Athletic Fields (“YAF”) park.  She does not want the current situation of parents running across the busy street at Olympiad continuing, and she wants to explore the possibility of a pedestrian cross-walk to increase safety.

Cathy feels that the city’s management-level staff compensation and benefits are too high and too disproportionate with staff compensation and benefits.

Cathy said that the city is virtually built out.  To protect the quality of life of existing residents, she opposes high density housing.  Cathy said that the city’s Master Plan was designed for a certain number of residents and that the city needs to improve its infrastructure first before expanding on the Master Plan’s vision.

Cathy is endorsed by, among others, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, California Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, California Assemblyman Christ Norby, the California Republican Assembly, and the Family Action PAC.

You can find out more about Cathy at http://www.cathy4council.com/.

Wendy Bucknum

Wendy is running for City Council to make Mission Viejo a better place to do business and protect the unique character that makes the city great.

Wendy said she will work to eliminate unnecessary red tape and fees that only serve as hurdles to business expansion and curtail private property rights.  Wendy believes that the council must also hold the line on wasteful spending in order to maintain the city’s 50% budget surplus and AAA bond rating.

Wendy also said that budget discipline will allow the city to continue making wise investment choices that support economic growth and quality of life.  This includes existing road and traffic improvements, expansion of the successful fee-based educational programs such as Kids Factory, and continued support for the city’s award-winning arts and sports programs.

Wendy believes another major issue for the city is the preservation of Mission Viejo’s business community and spurring economic development.  For Wendy, this includes supporting the completion of the 241 Toll Road and supporting infrastructure and workforce housing to increase jobs.  Wendy said that her plans are in line with the advocacy work she has been doing for the past two years as Governmental Affairs Committee Chair of the South Orange County Regional Chamber of Commerce.  Wendy also noted her service as: a Mission Viejo City Commissioner (2011-present); Vice-Chair & Chair of the Community Services Commission.  In addition, she said she serves on the Board of the South Orange County Regional Chamber of Commerce (member since 2000) and chairs the Legislative Action Committee.  Wendy received the Advocate of the Year Award presented at the 2011 SOCO Awards at the Regional Cities Ball due in large part to efforts in regional issues, specifically defeating Measure D in Mission Viejo.  She also serves on Orange County Board of Supervisor member Patricia Bates’ Annual Senior Summit Planning Committee (since 2007).

You can find out more about Wendy at http://wendybucknum.com/.

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