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Welcome to the LSIS Investigative Journal

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Law firm put GPS device on councilman's car, suit says

Law firm put GPS device on councilman's car, suit says

By Adolfo Flores and Paloma Esquivel
LA Times
November 13, 2013, 6:48 p.m.

An Upland law firm accused of bullying civic leaders faced new accusations Wednesday of planting a GPS device on the car of a Costa Mesa city official as a way to intimidate him.

 In an amendment to an existing lawsuit, Costa Mesa Councilman Steve Mensinger said the device was affixed to his car during the entire 2012 election season and only came to his attention when he was alerted by the Orange County district attorney’s office.

In the amendment, which was first reported by the O.C. Weekly, Mensinger's attorney said the device was designed to “intimidate, harass, humiliate and threaten" his client.

“Watergate, that’s when I last heard about something like this happening,” said Vince Finaldi, the Irvine attorney who filed the suit and amendment. 

The firm has represented dozens of police unions in Southern California and has a reputation for its bare-knuckled tactics and attacks on city hall. At the time of the accusations, the firm was employed by the Costa Mesa Police Officers' Assn.

Investigators with the Orange County district attorney’s office raided the offices of the Upland law firm a month after it announced that it would be dissolving following a series of scandals and the lawsuit.

Since last year, prosecutors have examined accusations that a private investigator (Chris Lanzillo) who had worked with Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir tailed Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer from a local bar and called 911 to say the then-councilman was possibly driving drunk.

After the call, a police officer came to his door and asked Righeimer to take a sobriety test, which he passed. Righeimer later produced a receipt from the bar showing he had only bought a soda at the tavern.

Attorneys for Righeimer and Mensinger believe the GPS device allowed the firm to follow the pair to Skosh Monahan’s on the night of the 911 call.

The amendment also accuses Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir of intruding onto Mensinger’s property because the GPS device needed to be charged and downloaded.


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