City to probe claims in feud

Costa Mesa has hired an outside investigator to look into claims by City Councilman Eric Bever and a resident that police tried to intimidate them while they posted campaign signs for City Council candidate Jim Righeimer.

"While I certainly feel that the Professional Standards Unit within the police department would have provided a fair and objective review and investigation of the allegations, we recognize the need for independence of this investigation so all the parties involved, including members of the Costa Mesa Police Department and the citizens of Costa Mesa, have complete confidence in an impartial investigation," Police Chief Christopher Shawkey said in a prepared statement.

The inquiry stems from an incident on Thursday afternoon. Bever and longtime Costa Mesa resident Chris Eric were hanging up Righeimer campaign signs along a chain-link fence at the corner of Superior Avenue and 17th Street. The property is vacant and the fence is private property.

Bever told police he had the property owner's permission to hang up the signs, officials said.

While the men were putting up the pro-Righeimer signs, a Costa Mesa police cruiser drove by, with the officers giving them men dirty looks, Bever and Eric claim.

The officers circled by them two more times, giving them dirty looks with one of the officers possibly taking their pictures too, Bever said at a news conference Saturday about the alleged incident.

The men felt intimidated by the officers' glares and questioned why they would be taking pictures, Bever and Eric told a group of largely Righeimer supporters on Saturday.

The investigation will address if the officers were trying to intimidate Bever and Eric and if the cops were carrying out police association political activities on city time. The officers have been identified but have not been disciplined pending the outcome of the investigation, Shawkey said.

The Costa Mesa Police Assn., which represents sergeants and rank-and-file officers, has been embroiled in an anti-Righeimer campaign since at least September. Righeimer, who is currenty a city planning commissioner, said he plans to cut back on public safety employee pay and pensions should he be elected to the council.

This would be the second investigation within a month surrounding the feud between the association and Righeimer. The city completed an investigation last week on a run-in between Righeimer and police at a September DUI checkpoint. Righeimer was questioning the checkpoint's timing and location while police claimed he was trying to throw his political weight around.

City Atty. Kimberly Barlow cleared Righeimer of any wrongdoing in that incident.

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