Community Commentary: Setting the record straight this time

File this under no good deed goes unpunished.

Last month, before new Costa Mesa CEO Tom Hatch moved into his prosaic corner office on City Hall’s fifth floor, a volunteer work crew gave up their Sunday to do a little spring-cleaning. After a decade of organizing work parties for my cause-based passions, my wife has become accustomed to serving others; it’s second nature to so many of us in the community.

We wanted Tom to have a freshly cleaned and painted office when he arrived at work on Monday. It was initially going to be a surprise for a man who never asks but always gives. The surprise did not work out.

The team consisted of Hatch and his wife, Costa Mesa Police Sgt. Tim Starn and his wife, Costa Mesa Booster President Frank Albers, Planning Commissioner Jim Fitzpatrick, and my wife and I — plus a handful of our kids. Just another ordinary Sunday?

Not wanting to spend city money, I headed to Home Depot and bought paint, cleaning supplies, a new toilet, towel bars, trash bags, 10 cans of furniture polish and a basket of other supplies. In all, we spent about $452.64. I know this because I bought the supplies.

From there, it was a lot of elbow grease. We oiled the wood paneling, painted the walls, washed the windows, cleaned the blinds and scraped and cleaned our way through the office. We also removed a broken toilet, installed a new one, and installed a towel bar and vacuumed — just to name a few of the earthly actions.

We all went home feeling good, having done a small deed to help our new CEO get off to a great start the next day.

But the rumors started swirling immediately: Hatch had remodeled his office with expensive furniture. He had hired my wife as his interior designer. He was spending thousands upon thousands of dollars during the city’s budget crisis.

The stories got so crazy that the Daily Pilot actually put in a California public records request for City Hall videotapes of the day.

In Sunday’s paper, the Pilot erroneously reported that Hatch’s office had been decorated and that Councilman Jim Righeimer was one of the decorators.

I’m not looking for credit for helping clean up Hatch’s office. It’s why I’ve kept silent for the past month as these bizarre rumors kept surfacing. I figured they would go away, especially since Costa Mesa has real challenges to solve.

But judging from the Pilot’s Sunday story, the rumors seem to have forged themselves into a lie many have accepted.

It was time to set the story straight: A volunteer crew cleaned up Hatch’s office with volunteer funds. No new furniture. No interior designer. A longtime friend and former pastor called me and said, “Steve, file the story in the category of no good deed goes unpunished. Welcome to local politics.”

Now let’s get on to the real business of Costa Mesa.

STEVE MENSINGER is a member of the Costa Mesa City Council.