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Commentary: Mayor, faced with intimidation, had no choice but to sue

August 26, 2013|By M. H. Millard

Joseph Heller once famously wrote, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you."

That line could apply to the situation in Costa Mesa, where Mayor Jim Righeimer has filed suit against the Costa Mesa Police Officers Assn. and others.

If you don't understand why a lawsuit is necessary, put yourself in the shoes of the mayor.

Before Righeimer was even elected, a few police officers who work for the city but don't live here were out to get him, using the gravitas and respect that comes with their jobs to try to smear him. At the same time, they were trying to get some easily manipulated puppets elected to the City Council to keep buttering their bread in the form of more raises and increased benefits.

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They knew that Righeimer wanted to start shifting city funds into fixing our long-neglected infrastructure — our roads, sidewalks and parks — instead of using most of it for ever-increasing raises and benefits for employees.

Then, after Righeimer was elected, smears notwithstanding, a private gumshoe who works for the law firm used by the police union — a guy who spent years as a cop and knows his way around, and, who, presumably, still has many friends in many police departments — tailed the mayor and called in a bogus report of driving under the influence. Of course, Righeimer passed the DUI test because he hadn't been drinking.

If you were Righeimer, wouldn't you be concerned about other attempts to intimidate you into voting certain ways on the City Council? Wouldn't you want to feel safe in your own home and not wonder every time you see strange people on your street if they have been sent to intimidate you and your wife and kids?

Wouldn't you want to simply do the job without worrying about what might happen if you vote on council matters in a way that some police officers might not like?

As the mayor, you'd be thinking of these fears as you prepared to vote.

Faced with that level of intimidation, would you roll over and give the rogue cops what they want? You know that would stop the attacks on you, and that's what many previous council members have done. They've just gone along to get along. They have smiled and rubber-stamped pay increases and benefit packages that have put the city in the position of having many millions in unfunded liabilities.

But maybe you were serious when you took your oath of office, and maybe you know that you have a fiduciary responsibility to the residents of Costa Mesa.

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