An emergency Costa Mesa City Council meeting this week quickly turned into a heated political dispute when a Newport-Mesa Unified school board trustee interrupted a councilman as he questioned a staff member about an argument made in opposition to the proposed city charter.
Foley, a former councilwoman, was nearly ejected from Thursday’s meeting when she marched up to the podium and loudly demanded a “point of order” while Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer read from an argument opposing the city charter, which is slated for the November ballot.
“That’s what got me so upset,” Foley, a charter opponent and critic of the council majority, said in a follow-up interview Friday. “The manipulation of these guys, the covertness of these guys is unreasonable.”
Righeimer said he was seeking clarification from Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz on what the so-called “no-bid” contracts actually are.
“I was asking staff a question about the bidding process to get clarification,” he said. “She’s acting like she did on the council, where she interrupts anyone that’s speaking. And she continues to do it now.
“It was just Katrina Foley being Katrina Foley.”
Munoz said a “no bid” contract is a misnomer that actually refers to an informal bidding process for public projects.
The no-bid contract language is included in charter opponents’ arguments that were submitted Wednesday to the city for consideration to be on the ballot.
After public comments were closed at Thursday’s meeting, where final edits to the charter description were finalized, Righeimer began picking away at the ballot opposition, reading from it verbatim in his questioning.
There was no opportunity for Foley or other charter opponents to argue their cases. So Foley took to the podium.
“Will the public get an opportunity to question staff in a public hearing regarding the statement in favor of the ballot?” Foley asked City Attorney Tom Duarte, who did not respond.
Mayor Eric Bever told Foley she was speaking out of turn and eventually called the sergeant at arms assigned to the meeting to remove her.
She instead stepped away from the podium.
“Foley’s actions were quite disappointing, and certainly were far beneath the dignity of her office,” Bever said in an email Friday. “Mayor Pro Tem Righeimer was simply confirming the bidding process with Mr. Munoz because there was a significant misunderstanding on one point.”
Some council critics in attendance sided with Foley, saying the only people who attended the meeting were charter opponents who should have been heard. A Bubbling Cauldron blogger Geoff West opined that he thought Righeimer had tried to “stifle dissent.”