COSTA MESA, CA – Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger have sued the city’s police officers union, alleging the group and two other defendants intimidated and harassed them for political gain.
Much of the lawsuit stems from an Aug. 22, 2012, incident in which private investigator Chris Lanzillo followed Righeimer as he left a local bar and restaurant owned by Councilman Gary Monahan, the Daily Pilot reported.
According to a 911 recording obtained by the Daily Pilot, Lanzillo called to report a potential drunk driver, whom he did not identify as Righeimer, driving erratically and reaching a speed of 50 mph down a residential street.
Police administered a sobriety test in front of Righeimer’s Mesa Verde home while his children watched in fear, the lawsuit alleges.
Righeimer was found not to be impaired and soon after the incident held a news conference where he produced a receipt for two Diet Cokes from Skosh Monahan’s.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, names the Costa Mesa Police Officers’ Assn.; Upland-based law firm Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir; and Menifee private investigator Lanzillo, alleging they intentionally inflicted emotional distress and violated civil rights, among 15 other complaints.
Righeimer’s wife, Lene, is also included as a plaintiff.
“They’re coercing and intimidating these people so that they change their vote in favor of the police association,” said attorney Vince Finaldi, who filed the suit on behalf of Mensinger and the Righeimers.
At the time of the incident, Righeimer accused political enemies of trying to set him up. He asserted that the association employed Lanzillo to tail him — an allegation the association strongly denied at the time.
Representatives from the association could not be reached for comment Tuesda.
Righeimer and the council majority have been working to reduce public employee compensation, a move that has drawn fierce resistance from public employee associations, collective-bargaining units that share some characteristics with but are not technically unions.
The suit alleges that the police association, Lanzillo and the law firm were all involved in the situation at least indirectly.
“What we’re saying is it’s a conspiracy, that they were all conspiring together to do this,” said Finaldi, of the Irvine-based law firm Manly, Stewart & Finaldi.
The plaintiffs have asked for a jury trial, during which any damages would be decided, Finaldi said.
Lanzillo and the law firm also could not be reached after work hours Tuesday evening.