Mayor shows up at campaign opponents’ event

When Costa Mesa City Council candidates Katrina Foley and Jay Humphrey began their meet-and-greet Monday evening with mobile home park residents, they soon realized they had some surprise guests: one of their opponents and his allies.

Mayor Jim Righeimer, who is up for reelection for one of two open council seats this November, and a few of his supporters showed up to hear what Foley and Humphrey had to say. The meeting at Greenleaf Mobile Home Park was billed as a candidate showcase for Foley and Humphrey.

Councilwoman Wendy Leece, who is supportive of Foley and Humphrey, found the arrival of political opponents at a meeting she helped coordinate unusual and impolite.

The event was supposed to be a peaceful evening “with a nice Costa Mesa breeze,” she said, and Righeimer’s presence “took away” from the time billed for Foley and Humphrey.

The behavior of the unexpected guests “was just bad manners, as far as I’m concerned. Real bad manners,” Leece said.

Righeimer saw it differently. A Greenleaf resident invited him to the forum, he said. It was a public event, he added, that for the most part was a “nondescript, quiet evening.”

“I was invited to go, and I went,” Righeimer said. “It’s not that unusual.”

Righeimer said he wouldn’t have attended if the event had been held in a private residence or not publicized with fliers, as this one was.

In addition to Foley and Humphrey, an advocate for preserving Banning Ranch as open space, Terry Welsh of the Banning Ranch Conservancy, also spoke. The Banning Ranch property, though located in Newport Beach, is near Greenleaf.

Leece, who is running for the Orange County Water District, said she will pursue trying to figure out whether Monday’s meeting violated California’s open-meeting laws because three sitting council members — Righeimer, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger and herself — were present in the same room and discussing a city issue.

At one point, Righeimer spoke “out of turn,” according to Leece, and questioned Foley’s opinions about the proposed city charter and the Westside’s urbanization plans, approved in 2006. Foley served on the council at the time and voted to approve the plans.

Foley had a different opinion about the mayor’s presence Monday.

“I felt like it was fine that they were there,” she said of Righeimer and his supporters. “I handled the questions that they posed to me in a professional and respectful manner.

“I didn’t let it bother me, and I think this is a non-story.”