Public Unions

Costa Mesa Mayor Suing Police Association, Labor Law Firm for Alleged Intimidation, Harassment

Big bullies

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put through rigmarole
Costa Mesa

Costa Mesa, California mayor Jim Righeimer was visited in his house last August, when he was still a councilman, after someone called the police to report him for DUI. Righeimer hadn't been drinking, and had the receipt from the pub to prove it. The "concerned citizen" who reported Righeimer was actually a private investigator hired by a labor law firm in California that represented dozens of police unions—Righeimer  has helped lead the battle in Costa Mesa to rein in public union costs and other municipal spending and that made him an apparent target of the police union.

Now Righeimer has filed suit against the Costa Mesa police association and its former legal firm (they were dismissed shortly after the private investigator was exposed as having filed a false police report) in what some local legal experts called a "very unusual" move. But the treatment Righeimer alleges in his lawsuit isn't. As Steven Greenhut reported when the DUI incident first happened last August:

Recently, the Orange County Register's Tony Saavedra reported on the "playbook" used by that Upland firm [that represented the Costa Mesa police association] in its negotiations, and until recently published on the firm's Web site. These lawyers represent 120 police associations across California, so these are typical tactics.

The fake-DUI call took place soon after Righeimer publicly criticized the firm.

"Its primer for police negotiations is part swagger, part braggadocio and all insult in its portrayal of the public and the budget-conscious officials elected to represent them," Saavedra reported. He gave this example from the playbook text: "The association should be like a quiet giant in the position of 'do as I ask and don't (expletive) me off.'"

The playback calls for work slowdowns, for mobbing council meetings with calls for higher police funding, for scaring neighborhoods about crime problems by going to as many houses as possible looking for suspects for minor crimes. It calls for putting the pressure on officials, gaining their loyalty and then moving on to the "next victim." This treatment of Righeimer takes a page out of the book.

In a follow up last October, Greenhut goes into more detail on similar bully tactics employed in Fullerton, where a pair of fiscally conservative councilmen who pressed for reforms after the killing of Kelly Thomas were also targeted, and elsewhere in California.