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.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Along with California congressmen Jeff Denham and Kevin McCarthy, I sent a letter today to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack seeking the immediate re-opening of the Central Valley Meat Company meat-processing plant in Hanford, California.
The Department of Agriculture recently suspended all operations at the plant after a video surfaced purporting to show plant workers mistreating livestock. Citing the idling of hundreds of workers at the plant, the regional economic damage resulting from its closure, and the fact that the alleged violations never compromised the food supply, we asked Secretary Vilsack to re-open the plant under enhanced supervision while an investigation of the plant continues.
The video was posted by extremists who are actively working to undermine production agriculture in the United States. In recent years, these kinds of “activists” have increased their attacks on animal agriculture, and have even carried out acts of domestic terrorism. For example, in early 2012 a group used improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to blow up fourteen trucks used for transporting livestock not far from Hanford, citing animal welfare as their excuse. Now, area residents are confronted with economic terrorism.
You can read our letter here.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Following the bankruptcies of Stockton, San Bernardino, and Mammoth Lakes earlier this year, Moody’s says it expects more California municipalities to go insolvent. The credit rating agency notes that more than 10 percent of the state’s cities have declared fiscal crises.
I’m not sure why so many politicians believe their budgets are exempt from the laws of mathematics. But when you pay out unaffordable benefits to public employees – including lavish pensions found almost nowhere in the private sector – eventually, those costs have to be paid off. Budget tricks, accounting gimmicks, and low-ball cost projections – the methods used by the Obama administration (ObamaCare) and the California Governor’s office (high-speed rail) – can fool people for a while. But in the end, bills have to be paid, one way or another.
What’s disturbing is that in some respects, the main thing that distinguishes the federal government’s budget from those of California’s failing municipalities is simply the scale of the irresponsibility.
Consider Social Security. In their latest 75-year budget projection, the Social Security trustees estimate the total Social Security shortfall at an unbelievable $134 trillion. Even adjusted for inflation, the figure is $30.5 trillion in today’s dollars, which the Associated Press notes is eight times bigger than the entire 2012 federal budget.
Social Security trustee Chuck Blahous comments, “To me, urgent doesn’t begin to describe it. . . . I would say we’re somewhere between critical and too late to deal with it.”
A shortfall of trillions of dollars in a single entitlement program is not something our nation can afford. When you combine this shortfall with the trillions in unfunded liabilities in Medicare and Medicaid, and join that with the trillion-dollar deficit the federal government now posts every year, and add that to our current national debt of $16 trillion – you get a level of indebtedness that will shatter the United States.
Nothing can protect us once we accumulate this kind of ruinous debt – not our military, not our scientists, and not our politicians. The only solution is to make tough decisions to restructure our entitlements today so that we don’t saddle our children with this disastrous debt tomorrow.
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Readers of my blog may remember my warning last year about possible food shortages. Well, CNN is reporting that the worst drought in more than fifty years has pushed up U.S. corn prices 50 percent in the last six weeks, potentially leading to a spike in food prices across the board. While the government can’t do much to make it rain, it can ease the plight of both farmers and consumers by ending policies that make the crisis worse.
One immensely damaging policy is the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires ethanol to be blended into gasoline. Along with other members of Congress, I have been warning for years that the RFS boosts food prices and suppresses corn production, as a rising share of the corn crop – currently 40 percent – is converted to ethanol.
In the Ways and Means Committee last year, we helped to cancel the ethanol tax credit. But that is not enough; with price shocks and food shortages looming, we need action now. As more than 100 of my colleagues and I argue in this letter, the Obama administration must immediately ease the ethanol mandate, as it is entitled to do when the RFS stands to inflict severe harm on the economy.
It’s time to admit the truth – the government’s experiment in using food for fuel has failed.