'Rule' offends state group

Costa Mesa's "Rule of Law" proclamation against illegal immigration nearly cost a local hotel about $10,000 after members with the California State Employees Assn.'s Retiree Inc. almost canceled reservations for an upcoming conference, three sources with knowledge of the transaction said.

A representative from the retiree board called the hotel's reservation department last week and asked about the financial ramifications should the board yank its room reservations for a two-day meeting there in mid-August, the sources said.

Contacted Friday, Dan Fitzgerald, the director of sales for cost the Hilton Orange County in Costa Mesa on Bristol Street, confirmed that a group planning a conference inquired about canceling its August reservation over concerns about the city's public stance. Though he declined to name the party on the record, state and city sources confirmed it was the retiree association.

The group was told it would be "100 percent responsible" for the 25 rooms over four nights, which comes to a tab of roughly $10,000 — about $8,400 for the rooms and at least $2,000 for the food and beverages, Fitzgerald said.

The party, he said, reconsidered and retained its reservations.

"I could have lost $10,000 right around the corner — at least in the short term," said Fitzgerald, adding that the sum was a good amount of money in the current economic climate.

"These small meetings, and regular meetings, are our bread and butter," he said. "We have nothing to do with politics or immigration or anything like that. If there was a natural disaster or an act of war, then we'd let them out of the agreement. But this isn't a fair and equitable enough reason."

Fitzgerald, whose hotel is down the street from South Coast Plaza, said he had a hard time understanding why anyone would have doubts about holding a meeting at the hotel due to the "Rule of Law" designation. Though largely symbolic, the proclamation essentially sends a message that illegal immigrants are, in accordance with federal law, unwelcome in Costa Mesa.

The president of the eight-member board for the retirees incorporation, Roger Marxen, declined to comment through his communications director, Trinida Lundholm.

"We have absolutely no intention of getting involved in these issues," Lundholm said. "We made these reservations a year ago, and it would cost thousands of dollars, and we're not getting involved. If you want to talk about health benefits and pensions, that's another matter."

The group also plans to return to Costa Mesa in 2011. The potential loss of revenue for a local business frustrates Ed Fawcett, president and chief executive of the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce. He would rather politicians not draw the ire of people on either side of the immigration issue at the expense of businesses.

"I think the mayors of Costa Mesa and Los Angeles should just keep their pie holes shut and run their cities like they're supposed to," Fawcett said, referring to Antonio Villaraigosa and Costa Mesa's Allan Mansoor.

"What you have are two polar extremes going toe to toe with one another on this issue, and the people in the middle are getting all chewed up."

Mansoor, a Republican running for state Assembly, is an outspoken opponent against the presence of illegal immigrants in Costa Mesa. He defended the policy, saying it is drawing visitors to Costa Mesa.

"I have gotten hundreds of e-mails saying they will be spending money in our city and visiting and staying in our hotels because of our position," Mansoor said via e-mail. "Illegal immigration is costing the taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars in this state."

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