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Police association interviewed about 911 call

D.A. investigates, questions officers about false accusations that a councilman drove drunk.

February 21, 2013|By Lauren Williams

Members of the association that represents Costa Mesa police officers said Thursday that they have been interviewed by district attorney investigators looking into a 911 call that falsely reported that a councilman was driving drunk.

Private investigator Chris Lanzillo, the man who made the Aug. 22 call about now-Mayor Jim Righeimer, did freelance work for the law firm that represented the Costa Mesa Police Officers Assn.'s at the time, but it remains unclear for whom he was working when he followed Righeimer home from a sports bar and called dispatchers to tell them he thought the councilman was drunk.

"They did not indicate our association is the focus of that investigation," said Costa Mesa Police Officers Assn. (CMPA) President Ed Everett.

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Righeimer had only Diet Coke to drink and a CMPD officer at the scene cleared him of DUI. Righeimer later accused organized labor of targeting him for his efforts to reduce the cost of public employee pensions and other compensation.

Lanzillo, who admitted to tailing Righeimer and Councilman Gary Monahan, who owns the Newport Boulevard restaurant Righeimer was visiting before the 911 call, worked at some point for Upland-based law firm Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir.

The police association dropped the law firm at the time, citing a desire to work toward a less aggressive approach in its dealings with the city. The firm advertises itself as "former cops defending current ones" and previously had a playbook of controversial tactics on its website. It has since taken down the material, saying it was misconstrued.

The association is not connected in any way to the August incident, Det. Sgt. Everett said Thursday.

"It was an unfortunate situation [Righeimer] had to endure," he later said.

In August, D.A. investigators visited Monahan's restaurant, Skosh Monahan's, to take video footage of event leading up to the incident.

Lanzillo said Wednesday that he was unaware of the status of the D.A.'s investigation. He said some of his belongings have been returned after a warrant was served on his house months ago. He has not been charged with wrongdoing.

Righeimer said he did not know enough about the D.A. investigation to comment.

The D.A.'s chief of staff, Susan Kang Schroeder, would not comment because the investigation remained open.

"I'm not going to discuss any aspect of it," she said.

The OC Weekly was first to report that the D.A.'s office had talked with police association members in regards to the 911 call.

lauren.williams@latimes.com

Twitter: @lawilliams30

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