Jim Righeimer Ordered to Pay Huge Legal Bill
At the same time Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer poured more than $42,000 in personal funds into his 2010 political campaign to successfully fight police union attacks, the Republican real estate developer stiffed his own corporate lawyer out of nearly $195,000 in fees.
That revelation is according to a court record officially filed on Feb. 3, but inexplicably held secret until today by Orange County court officials.
Retired Judge Terry Friedman of Santa Monica played arbiter in the case and decided last month that Righeimer had signed contracts with Milburn A. Matthews, a $500-an-hour partner at the San Juan Capistrano law firm of Coontz & Matthews.
In 2010 and 2011, Righeimer repeatedly refused to pay a series of valid legal bills for work on the councilman's numerous Southern California real estate projects, according to the court record.
The law firm filed the notice of the binding arbitration award after Friedman last month rejected Righeimer's attempts to delay a ruling as well as his stance that he wasn't personally liable for any of the bills.
Matthews shared with the Friedman an April 2010, letter from the councilman that acknowledged the debts by writing, "I will do everything I can to get you paid."
But, to the lawyer's displeasure, Righeimer also added that he wasn't personally responsible to pay the bills. Matthews fired back a letter that challenged the assertion.
Friedman determined that Righeimer breached the the contract and ordered him and his Marketplace at Weston Ranch to pay the debt.
According to a mandatory 2011 financial disclosure report, the first-term councilman reported his portion of the Marketplace property is valued between $100,000 and $1 million.
Righeimer, who shares Newport Beach offices with Orange County Republican Party chairman/corporate lobbyist Scott Baugh, is considered a top enemy of public employee unions in California.
He could not be reached for comment.
The Daily Pilot's Joseph Serna reported that Righeimer used more than $10,000 in campaign funds last August to travel to Mongolia to boost trade between China and Costa Mesa.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly
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