An Orange County Superior Court judge recently refused to hold Costa Mesa City Councilman Steve Mensinger in contempt of court for revealing someone placed a GPS tracking device on his truck.
Judge David Hoffer on Dec. 13 denied the contempt motion by the Costa Mesa Police Officers' Association, which claimed the disclosure by Mensinger and his attorneys violated a court order. One problem: that order applied to a criminal case, not Mensinger's civil suit.
Mensinger and his lawyers Vince Finaldi and John Manly announced at a November news conference that they would add the GPS allegation to the harassment lawsuit the councilman and his political ally Mayor Jim Righeimer brought against the police association, its former law firm Lackie, Dammeier McGill & Ethir and private investigator Chris Lanzillo, the Mexican-in-Chief reported at the time.
The most damning allegation in the suit was Lanzillo trying to get Righeimer arrested for drunken driving by Costa Mesa police officers who belong to the very same association. The thuggish tactics prompted criminal investigations of the cop union, the law firm and Lanzillo by the county grand jury and district attorney's office.
The bad blood between the cop union and Righeimer and Mensinger, who have been critical of the police department and efforts to protect lucrative lifetime pensions for cops, extends back to the 2012 election season, which is also when the GPS device was attached to the councilman's vehicle. Mensinger only learned about it this past November, when DA investigators told the councilman about it in an interview tied to the criminal probe.
The association's grounds for what turned out to be an unsuccessful court motion was the GPS surveillance had been uncovered in two search warrants served as part of that criminal probe and later sealed by court order. But Manly and Finaldi are pursuing their suit in civil court, and then they informed Hoffer they were neither aware of or subject to the court order. So the judge tossed the contempt motion.
Ed Everett, the Costa Mesa Police Officers' Association president, reportedly told the Daily Pilot that Mensinger and Righeimer are trying to smear cops in their city and are willing to air evidence from an ongoing grand jury investigation to do so.
The Costa Mesa-based newspaper also heard from DA officials who maintained they did nothing improper informing Mensinger of the GPS surveillance.