Every once in a while a local story comes around that makes one wonder about the lengths some lawyers and politicians will go to, thinking they’re above the law. If anything else, no one can ever claim that politics here in Orange County is mind-numbing boring. The latest news to support that comes courtesy of a “renegade” law firm (to say the least) which apparently used a shady private investigator and GPS tracking devices to follow the whereabouts of Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger, as well as former El Monte City Manager Rene Bobadilla.
Why would (now-thankfully defunct) law firm Lackie, Dammeier, McGill and Ethir use illegal, cheesy B-movie tactics? Part of the reason may be the fact that this firm represented police unions and Mayor Pro Tem Mensinger strongly favors public pension reform and the privatization of several city services. Evidence recently uncovered by the Orange County DA’s office as well as the FBI shows that a GPS device was repeatedly placed on an SUV driven by Mensinger for over a month during Mensinger’s 2012 re-election campaign.
Now that this has come to light, Mensinger is naturally shocked. He stated quite accurately, “This is like a (John) Grisham novel.” Like a Grisham novel, this story also has its own shady private investigator, named Chris Lanzillo, who possibly placed the GPS device(s) himself, in addition to accusations that he spent much of June 2011 tailing ex-Manager Bobadilla between his home and various places. When a reporter reached him over the phone, Lanzillo naturally declined to comment, almost comically stating, “I’m not saying nothing, whether it happened or not. I know better than to say anything.” Likewise, Dieter Dammeier, the Lackie Dammeier firm’s ex-managing partner, didn’t provide any comment… he actually couldn’t be reached at all.
Mensinger and Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer had already filed a lawsuit against the former law firm, the Costa Mesa Police Association, and Chris Lanzillo, even before this new GPS evidence came to light, due to other shady practices. The Lackie Dammeier firm actually began to dissolve after a police officers’ defense fund made fraud accusations against it, alleging triple-billing and charges for trips which never occurred. Lanzillo is the reason the Costa Mesa Police Association is named in the lawsuit, for it was during his time as a Riverside police officer he launched a groundless DUI accusation against Mayor Righeimer after following he and Mensinger home from a tavern, though it turned out they imbibed nothing stronger than Diet Cokes. Maybe this isn’t just a John Grisham-story here, let’s throw in the Keystone Kops too. It’s certainly a good thing that all this ridiculousness has come to light but it also makes one wonder how many other unknown firms and individuals out there may still be pulling fast ones.
This practice is becoming routine with millions of dollars seeping into and through campaign coffers and no one can account for the considerable cash funding these campaigns. No longer is the money just going to large presidential and congressional campaigns. These funds are being reported in small local city and county campaigns. Too many people, groups, and clubs that have their specific agendas, and they want CONTROL.