Reports of union thuggery in California. (Public pension reform, anyone?) The police union is making the police look bad. Where is the mainstream media?
from the Orange County Register
printed August 29, 2012
Police union negotiator targeted city councilmen
Officials from Costa Mesa, Irvine, Fullerton and Buena Park on Tuesday accused an Upland law firm that represents police unions of employing thug-like behavior in its efforts to win favorable contracts for city police agencies.
Buena Park Mayor Fred Smith says he was pulled over and treated as a DUI suspect two years ago after attending a holiday party. He suspects the Buena Park officers targeted him because of his decisions on the city's council and his choice of police chief, he said.
Jackie, Dammeier and McGill, which represents more than 120 police associations in California, until recently had featured on its website a manual for tough negotiating tactics that included targeting city officials until they cave in to union demands.
Buena Park Councilman Fred Smith said he was targeted by a police officer after leaving a party in December 2010. Smith said he was pulled over, told that he smelled of alcohol, and asked to take a field breath test. Smith said that he blew "all zeros" but was ticketed for straddling a lane.
"I was told I should never disrespect officers," Smith said.
Smith said he also received threatening text messages last week from a political consultant that worked for the police union. One text asked Smith if he knew the meaning of "GJI." A later text explained: "Grand Jury Indictment."
It was followed by this message: "Say good bye Freddie."
The consultant, Jim Freeman of Torrance, admitted Tuesday that the messages came from his phone but said he did not send them. Freeman said his phone system was hacked by a disgruntled intern. "I've been in politics for over a decade and I've never had my systems breached before, though I understand that anything is possible in today's world -- even government agencies like the DOD get hacked," said Freeman.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher said street cops were getting a black eye from their unions.
"This is a very sad occasion when police unions are destroying the good will that police officers are building," said Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach. He called for an investigation by the US Department of Labor and the US Department of Justice.
The officials spoke at a press conference outside of Costa Mesa City Hall organized by Councilman Jim Righeimer.
The Orange County Register on Friday linked the law firm of Lackie, Dammeier and McGill, with a private investigator who called in a DUI report on Righeimer last week. Police met the investigator at Righeimer's house and administered a sobriety test but reported that he was not intoxicated.
Righeimer has said he believes labor unions are behind the drunken driving accusation and the 911 call.
Both the law firm and the PI, Chris Lanzillo, acknowledged their affiliation but the police union and a principal in the law firm say Lanzillo was not authorized to follow Righeimer. Lanzillo told The Register on Tuesday that he happened upon Righeimer by accident and stands by his report that he appeared intoxicated.
Lackie, Dammeier and McGill's client list includes police unions in Anaheim, Buena Park, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, La Habra, La Palma, Laguna Beach, Los Alamitos, Santa Ana, Tustin and Westminster, as well as UC Irvine.
Attorney Dieter Dammeier denied his firm had done anything illegal.
"When our clients are treated unfairly or unlawfully, yes, we are aggressive, within the limits of the law, to vindicate our client's position," Dammeier wrote in an email to the Orange County Register.
Dammeier wrote that cities have fabricated evidence in cases against police officers, diverted money to executive pay raises and threatened to cut police positions, among other things'
"We will not apologize for 'aggressively' protecting those that put their lives on the line every day protecting all of us. We will continue to fight for our clients using every available legal tool at our disposal," Dammeier wrote. "When officials take actions that our clients feel deprioritize public safety, we will respond, in many cases publically, calling out the politicians on their actions."
Lanzillo, the man who made the 911 call, is a former Riverside police officer who took a disability retirement and works as a private investigator, for Lackie, Dammeier & McGill and others. Lanzillo's name was on the Lackie, Dammeier & McGill website last week but had been removed by Friday.
Lanzillo released a statement late Monday night denying that he was hired to follow Righeimer. He stated he was on an unrelated assignment when he saw Righeimer leaving Skosh Monahan's Steakhouse & Irish Pub in Costa Mesa. The bar and restaurant is owned by Costa Mesa Councilman Gary Monahan.
Buena Park Mayor Jim Dow also appeared at the news conference, saying he had received word a year ago that the union was gunning for him. Dow said he then moved his adult daughters to Idaho after reading a suggestion online that police unions should target the children of city officials. He said he's in the process of selling his house and plans to move after his term ends.
"I couldn't take that chance with my kids," Dow said.
Righeimer said in recent days he has received several calls from municipal officials throughout California, complaining of the threatening tactics employed by Lackie Dammeier and its clients. One of those calls was from El Monte, where a city official had been followed for days by a white car matching the description of the one that tailed Righeimer.
Several calls by the Register to this city official and El Monte City Attorney David Gondek went unanswered.
Fullerton Councilman Bruce Whitaker said intimidation by the Fullerton Police Association resulted in a 3-2 vote against pursuing cost estimates from the Orange County Sheriff's Department. The Council was looking into restructuring its police force, Whitaker said.
"We entrust (police) with the ability to take away our freedoms, to make arrests, to intimidate, to use discerning tactics. This clearly can cross the line and become an abuse of those powers," Whitaker said.
Righeimer said menacing tactics are forcing municipal officials to make decisions not based on what is best for the community but what will keep them from being publicly embarrassed – or worse. In the past year, he has been criticized by city unions and some residents for supporting outsourcing some city services and a charter city proposal on the November ballot.
"This has nothing to do with the working cops and firefighters," Righeimer said. "This has to do with the labor unions that have gotten in bed with this law firm."
The Costa Mesa Police Department is investigating the incident, but Righeimer said the department will be handing the investigation off to the District Attorney's Office.
Updated to remove Brea Police Association from the client list of Lackie, Dammeier & McGill. Brea Police Association stopped using the firm about a year ago.