Costa Mesa coat-donation site switches after campaign-law complaint

Costa Mesa Councilwoman Katrina Foley.
(Kevin Chang/Daily Pilot)

Councilwoman-elect Katrina Foley is crying foul at a recent accusation from Mayor Jim Righeimer that has affected her sixth annual coat donation drive for children and the homeless.

Foley’s weeks-long effort to collect the coats was going to use the Police Department’s Fair Drive headquarters as a collection point, but a complaint from Righeimer on Friday to top city officials has effectively excluded the location as an option.

Foley was told by city CEO Tom Hatch and City Attorney Tom Duarte that her using a public place for a political purposes was a potential violation of state law enforced by the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).


Foley, in an interview Saturday, refuted the assertion and called Righeimer’s complaint “petty politics” toward her effort of gathering coats to donate to community organizations, including the Boys & Girls Club of the Harbor Area. The drive begins Monday and lasts through Dec. 10.

“This is extremely disappointing,” she said. “We’ve been doing this for five years ... no one is doing anything [political.] It’s just a box sitting in a room.”

Righeimer told the Daily Pilot on Saturday that Foley’s donation drive is tied to her sixth annual Holiday Soiree & Benefit, which he felt is deceptive in that it’s a campaign fundraiser “hiding behind a coat drive.” Attendees of the Dec. 10 soiree are given the option of donating to Foley’s campaign fund.

Righeimer contended that her event should be appropriately labeled in accordance with state standards, but is being done in an inconsistent manner.

At least one of her fliers does not have a campaign ID number on it, but Foley said any exclusion is an inadvertent mistake.

“You can’t hide campaign events by saying they’re for nonprofits,” Righeimer said. “That’s an FPPC violation if you do that.”

Foley said her soiree is not a campaign fundraiser and that the coat drive, which is is also aided by Costa Mesa High School cheerleaders, is a separate thing entirely.

Foley won the Nov. 4 election to the council earlier this month, coming in top of the field of eight council candidates.

“The campaign is over,” she said. “I still have money in the bank.”

Foley said if Righeimer was concerned about her party or clothing drive, he “should have called her to clarify instead of going behind her back ... if you truly are wanting to work together, you simply pick up the phone and call me.”

“You join in,” she added, “and you donate coats.”

Righeimer said he will still work with Foley on citywide issues and doesn’t plan to file a formal complaint with the FPPC. The two begin their new terms Dec. 2.

“Working with her has nothing to do with the fact that she needs permission to do something, like using city facilities,” he said.

Foley disputed any claim that she didn’t have permission to use the CMPD for her donation box, or that on-duty cops help with it. The CMPD has been a collection point for the past several years, and the Costa Mesa Police Assn., the departments’ union, has been a consistent partner in the drive.

“This is the first time I have heard controversy about the collection of coats and clothing for the disadvantaged,” said police Chief Tom Gazsi.

Foley said interested donors can find the new donation drop-off locations on her website,

“We have to get beyond these petty politics because it’s good for our community,” Foley said. “But I’m also not going to sit back and say nothing when others try to play politics with things that are just good for the community.”