ABLE board rebukes council's decision [CORRECTED]

NEWPORT BEACH — The AirBorne Law Enforcement (ABLE) board of directors strongly rebuked the Costa Mesa City Council in its Thursday operational meeting.

The decision follows a split June 7 vote by the council to contract police helicopter services from Huntington Beach. Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer added the requirements that the helicopters go up for sale starting July 1, but not to actually sell them for 90 days.

"There is too much meddling," said Costa Mesa Police Capt. Les Gogerty, an ABLE board member. "The council doesn't have the authority to tell us when to sell them, or where to sell them, or when to put them on the market."

The ABLE board voted on a $782,158 budget for the next fiscal year. Neither Newport Beach nor Costa Mesa will contribute any money to the budget. It will instead be paid out of existing ABLE reserves, with any remaining funds being divided between the two cities after a complete dissolution.

"The goal is not to spend it all, which has been our philosophy all along," Starn said. "We've always spent our needs, not spent just because we want it."

The ABLE board voted to have Starn remain on as the full-time ABLE commander to take the actions necessary for ABLE's dissolution, with a review of continued work necessary in three months.

The board also voted to have one mechanic on board to keep the helicopter airworthy for any future buyer and for pilots to exercise the helicopters and retain their airworthiness.

The board decided to spread the exercise flight time among the pilots so that they will all stay current on their flight requirements in case there is a public-private partnership.

Starn said that there were already several legitimate proposals, some of which would purchase the existing ABLE helicopters and some that wouldn't. He expected proposals to be ready in one or two weeks.

Costa Mesa interim Police Chief Steven H. Staveley, who on Monday announced his resignation effective noon Tuesday, was highly critical of the decision to dissolve ABLE.

"This is a sad day," he said. "ABLE should not be shut down. There is no reason to do it. There never was a reason to do it. There remains no reason in the future to do it. This was entirely a political decision, not a fiscal decision."

He added that ABLE, a 41-year program, has a JPA structure that benefits both Newport Beach and Costa Mesa, and could possibly benefit many other cities.

"This decision is legal, ethical, and moral, but it is not smart," he said. "We will salute smartly and do it."

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