Public Unions

How Far Will Cop Unions Go to Halt Reform?

A look into the way some police unions across California intimidate political opponents into silence


The arrest this week of two ex-cop private investigators—charged with felonies related to their alleged attempt to set up a Costa Mesa city councilman for a false DUI — is about more than the disturbing tactics of two hired guns. It offers insight into the way some police unions across California intimidate political opponents into silence.

This ugly story starts in 2012. Councilmen Jim Righeimer, Stephen Mensinger, and Gary Monahan were loathed by the city's police union because of their efforts to reduce pension liabilities and outsource services. Costa Mesa had become Ground Zero in our state's battle over reform, drawing protests reminiscent of the fracas between Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) and unions at the capitol in Madison.

A political dispute is one thing, but on August 22 of that year it turned into something the Orange County District Attorney says is a serious criminal matter.

Righeimer left a council meeting and met with Monahan at the latter's restaurant and bar, drank a couple diet sodas and left. Righeimer got home and went inside his house—but soon had police knocking on his door, asking him to step outside for a DUI test. He was detained for a while, but wasn't drunk.

The police action was prompted by private investigators Chris Lanzillo and Scott Impola, who were working for a law firm that represented more than 120 police unions across California. This included the Costa Mesa Police Officers Association, which retained it to do "candidate research."

The two men tracked Righeimer to the bar and then Lanzillo is accused of calling 911 and reporting that a man stumbled out of the bar and was possibly drunk—and gave a description of Righeimer's car. It seemed like a set up designed to destroy his political career. The episode so outraged Righeimer and Mensinger that they filed a civil lawsuit against the union, law firm (Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir of Upland) and Lanzillo.

Union defenders don't seem too chastened by these banana-republic actions, which include an allegation that Lanzillo and Impola illegally placed a GPS device on Mensinger's car so they could track his movements. For instance, at a recent council meeting, police backers chided Righeimer for suing the union. (The councilmen say their goal isn't money but to force union officials to testify about what happened.)

The criminal prosecutions—felony counts for illegal use of a tracking device, false imprisonment by deceit, conspiracy to commit a crime and falsely reporting a crime—reinforce what the council members have been saying. But, again, this is not just about two PIs with checkered pasts. It's about the dirtiest form of politics.

Prosecutors say Lanzillo and Impola were in contact with the law firm's managing partner the night of the incident. That firm closed following the scandal and allegations of billing misconduct, but had long bragged about its "playbook" of bare-knuckled tactics on behalf of police.

After this story broke in 2012, many unions dumped the firm (including Costa Mesa's), but they long relished its approach. A 2009 U-T article details how the Escondido Police Officers Association appeared to be taking "some of its cues from the hardball battle plan devised" by these lawyers. The firm may be gone, but two of its key plays — storming city council meetings and accusing reform-minded council members of being enemies of "public safety" — were on display at the recent Costa Mesa council meeting.

This raises an important question: How widespread is this kind of behavior? At a Costa Mesa press conference last year, elected officials from other cities made allegations of police using disturbing tactics to achieve their political goals.

"What kind of world do we live in when the people we give guns and badges to hire private investigators to surveil public officials?" asked Righeimer. Calling it "unseemly," OC prosecutor Robert Mestman said this case is significant because the victims "are democratically elected city council members." Mensinger said it seemed Orwellian: "Public officials should not be extorted over public benefits."

Seems simple enough, but none of it will change without widespread public outrage.


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  1. Jest a few bad apples. Not a culture of corruption and abuse at all. Nope.

  2. isolated incident, fake scandal, thin blue line, etc

  3. OT: sorry but I just had a phone call and I need to ask if anyone else has received the same thing. A nurse, from a certain specialist I’ve been to within the last couple years, called and said that, in accordance with the new health care law, she wanted to read me a statement. I said “okay” and then she read the statement, which was about the holidays and eating right, including low salt, etc etc. She was somewhat apologetic and I gathered from her tone that she’d had a bunch of phones hung up in her face. HAS ANYONE ELSE HAD THIS HAPPEN? It blew my mind. I’m sure that nurses, nationwide, calling people to recite inane health tips won’t add a penny to our health costs.

    1. What are you talking about? Lecturing people on their eating habits will cause them to lower their salt and fat intake, which will lower their chances of developing hypertension and heart disease! This will save billions of dollars in the long run! Hooray for preventative care! All hail Obama, Pelosi, and the Affordable Care Act! Hip hip hooray!

      1. Phone calls as preventative medicine! That’s progress!

        1. I think you mean preventive medicine.

    2. I wonder if they’ll bill your insurance company for that call? Maybe Obamacare allows for that kind of things and thats what she meant about about the new health care law?

    3. Oh god. Is this true? Honestly it sounds like you made it up. But if I ever got a call like that…

      1. Salt isn’t bad for you.
      2. Neither is fat.
      3. It’s none of your fucking business what I eat.

      1. Believe me, I’m a one-percenter when it comes to salt (i.e. I consume more salt than 99% of the population). I could tell that the nurse (or aide, whatever) wasn’t enjoying it anymore than I was, so no, I won’t be lecturing them in the future.

        1. I consume more salt than 99% of the population

          Is this…a challenge? Has the gauntlet been thrown down?? Why, I accept!!

          1. *whips out block and salt and begins gnawing on it*

            CATCH ME IF YOU CAN!

            1. A fool’s errand. Everyone knows that only the sluggish avoid salt.

              So obviously a salt fiend like yourself has no worries about being pursued and caught.

        2. I eat more salt than Lot’s wife.

          1. Oh, she was a salt-muncher, was she?

            Did she feel ignored because Lot spent too much time with his daughters?

        3. Just don’t let them know or they will send a “Salt Allowance Law Team” SALT after you. They will have flash grenades and body armour and AR-10’s . they will take your kids away if they aren’t hurt in the raid.

    4. in accordance with the new health care law

      Well, that part is a complete fiction.

      1. I don’t know. I think AlmightJB might be onto something above when he wonders if there might be some sort of bounty for each call made.

        Would you really be shocked if it turned out that some shyster had discovered a program buried in the ACA that paid someone so much money for each call made by a registered nurse or other health care professional?

        1. I have a friend in my company’s HR department who once confided in me that basically whenever the company wants to make benefit changes to save money, it blames it on the ACA whether it had anything to do with it or not, because most of the employees will believe them and get mad at the government instead of the company.

          1. Which is not to say there isn’t actual bad changes in ACA, just that it’s become a convenient excuse for everything bad that happens and gets blamed for far more than it actually does.

        2. If you listen to Armstrong and Getty (and you should: they have a podcast, they have a benefits lawyer come on and explain the ACA far better than any media story.

          He says that the ACA is so laden with stuff, that companies spend all their time gaming the system.

          So, for example, last year companies were setting up insurance that paid for all sorts of weird things in order to hit 60% score, but they could then pay 0% of hospital stays. They gamed that to “comply” with the ACA, while offering insurance to employees that didn’t pay for hospital stays~!

          The new one is insurers are learning how to cherry pick on the exchanges.

          So they offer subsidized gym memberships in some policies, hoping to attract the healthy.

          But they also know the really sick people will choose the super low deductible plans.

          So its all gaming from now on.

          I guarantee you that those phone calls could have been part of a policy where they put some of their money in “diet counseling” in order to take away from somewhere else.

  4. I’m sure the working class heroes will hold their brothers accountable for these abuses.

  5. I still read NRO for old time’s sake and often disagree with their foreign policy articles. But there is a distinct libertarian drift going on there and in the comments. And surprisingly, several of their writers are in agreement on this one.…..w-caldwell

    This is from July, but check out the best comment.…..-j-delgado

    1. Hmmm…an Unholy Alliance of H&R, NRO, and MSNBC???

      1. MSNBC will want to stop the union from protecting bad cops while making them mandatory, expensive, and able provide unlimited support to any candidate who happens to be Democrat.

    2. My FB has several conservatives who have woken up about the new style of policing and police abuses.

  6. They should have been charged with a separate civil rights violation for every individual registered voter in the councilman’s district.

    Sentences to run consecutively.

  7. Pigs gotta be pigs.

  8. Seems simple enough, but none of it will change without widespread public outrage.

    1. Application of Rule 308.

  9. The ends justify the means. ie never trust commie union scum

  10. I looked at the paycheck that said $4961 , I accept …that…my neighbours mother woz like they say actually making money part-time on there computar. . there dads buddy haz done this for under twelve months and just cleared the loans on their house and purchased a brand new Nissan GT-R: .
    try this site and free register ———

  11. The thugs are running scared and doing what cornered animals do. Someone is going to get hurt.

  12. Problem: my secretary is taking WAY too many personal calls that I have to listen to. She will definitely get all passive aggressive on me if I talk to her, and I don’t have the direct authority to take more drastic action.

    I don’t like to keep my door closed unless I’m on a call since it discourages people coming in.

    1. Rattlesnakes in her desk drawers.

      IMPORTANT FACT: You can’t dust rattlesnakes for prints. Well, you can dust them, I guess, but they won’t give any legible results. This actually goes for most reptiles.

      1. You are joking but there was a case in Taiwan where a guy had a mail order bride from Vietnam, and bought a ton of insurance on her, and then she got bit by a poisonous snake and died.

        Then he got married again. This time, he tried to derail a train to kill the new wife. He got caught that time.

    2. …I don’t have the direct authority to take more drastic action.

      Talk to the person who does have the direct authority. I’m lucky in that I don’t work in an office environment, but personal phone calls have no place in a business office.

      1. Depends. Here where I work when we do personal calls most of us take a walk to one of the empty offices and talk there. That way we don’t disturb anyone. If you mean making personal calls at your desk, then I agree. It better be important.

        1. That would be okay. There are nice break areas to talk.

    3. Fart loudly. A lot. When she complains, tell her you’ll stop polluting the air with your waste gas when she does.

    4. Send her annoying busy work every time. Eventually she’ll figure it out.

      1. I’m going to start dictating my emails to her like its 1976.

        1. There you go. Swill some bourbon in between paragraphs.

    5. I would tell her that she’s less likely to be disciplined for excessive personal calls if she starts texting or IM’ing instead of using voice all the time.

      Offer this advice as a “office-mate tip” on how to beat The Man.

      That way you aren’t being the aggressor.

      I assume it’s listening to her SPEAK that is the problem here, and not the time she’s wasting. (Who cares about that, right?) So if you can get her to switch to text, you’ve accomplished the goal of not having to hear her speak.

      1. Unfortunately I am “the Man” in this situation. She can waste all the time she wants, I just don’t want to hear her.

    6. E. Edward Grey: Do you really wanna be my secretary?

      Lee: Yes, I do.

      E. Edward Grey: This isn’t just about typos, tapes, staples and pencils, is it, Lee?

      Lee: No, Sir.

      E. Edward Grey: What?

      Lee: No, Sir!

      1. She could do anything she wanted if she looked like Maggie G. Not so much, though.

    7. We’re missing a critical fact before we can recommend a course of action.

      How hot is she?

      1. 3. Not a lot of smoke show secretary’s left these days.

        1. secretaries. My brain can’t work right with this.

          1. The secretary at my work is shaped like a turnip with legs.

  13. Public employee unions are inimical to the democratic process as this article demonstrates. Public employee unions should be banned starting with the police and fire unions. Police hide behind union rules whenever they wantonly kill innocent citizens. Eliminating police unions will do more than anything else to curb police misconduct.

    1. End immunity.

      1. I’d go with this first.

      2. And start instituting agency-wide punishment. If they want to play with military toys and dress up like soldiers, they should have to deal with the rest of it.

    2. How did you bust the unions in your sausage making facilities, Mr. Froman?

      1. He unleashed his wife on them.

        They were full of unbridled terror.

      2. The more union reps they find in the meat vats, the more compliant they get.

  14. This sure sounds to me like a textbook RICO case that could be used (if anyone cared to) to take down the entire union.

  15. How Far Will Cop Unions Go to Halt Reform?

    Cop Unions don’t view reform to be in their best interests. So a good question to ask is what is the depth of conviction of the reformers? Do they/we have what it takes to do what needs to be done?

    I certainly hope so.

  16. I had a stupid run-in with Costa Mesa PD, which began with them not understanding why someone wouldn’t want to follow a couple of rough looking undercovers into an unlit parking lot and ended with them implying that anyone who stays at a Motel 6 must be a criminal.

    Fuck Costa Mesa PD with a sharp, jagged, rusty pole. And I’m never spending another nickel in their shitty town again.

    1. Cops make a lot of money now, if they are above Motel 6.

      Occupy bitches about the 1%, but in California, a cop and a nurse = 1% income.

      And some firefighter management guys = 1% all by themselves.

  17. my roomate’s ex-wife makes $60 /hr on the computer . She has been unemployed for 7 months but last month her payment was $12996 just working on the computer for a few hours. read the full info here …….

  18. It seems to me that the coziness between prosecutors and cops, is a much more pervasive problem than police unions, as evil as they are. A rational judicial system would leave enforcement, prosecution, defense and juris prudence up to wholly separate institutions.

  19. How many times must it be pointed out about anyone that is a member of “organized labor”:

    *You are a loser
    *You are a drain on the rest of us
    *You are a mouth breather
    *You smell bad
    *You have a violent streak
    *You are a loser
    *You are weak and not too bright at all
    *You are a clock-watcher
    *You are untrustworthy
    *You are a loser
    *You are lazy
    *You are not reliable
    *You are a loser
    *You make horrible spouses
    *You make horrible parents
    *You are a loser

    Cop, fireman, teacher, pipefitter?.makes no difference at all. If you belong to a union, you are all of the above.

    Oh, and yes, you are a loser.

    1. That’d be a relatively valid criticism if most union members weren’t compelled by law to join, as a legally mandated consequence of making a living.

  20. “Nothing to see here! … Move along. … Move along. …

    1. Police State – Watch It In Action Tonight…..n-tonight/

  21. $89 an hour! Seriously I don’t know why more people haven’t tried this, I work two shifts, 2 hours in the day and 2 in the evening?And i get surly a chek of $1260……0 whats awesome is Im working from home so I get more time with my kids.
    Here is what i did————-

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