Sanitary District rejects Fitzpatrick's bill request

The Costa Mesa Sanitary District will not pay embattled Director Jim Fitzpatrick's legal fees.

Fitzpatrick's peers on the district's board are trying to remove him from his elected seat, arguing that his previously concurrent post on the Costa Mesa Planning Commission posed a potential conflict of interest.

Fitzpatrick, who stepped down from the planning board, had sought compensation from the Sanitary District to help him pay the legal counsel who is helping him defend his seat.

"I went down standing up," Fitzpatrick said Friday.

In a 4-0 vote Thursday, the board rejected a July 5 request that the district pay $17,250.52 to Fitzpatrick's attorney, Steven Baric. Fitzpatrick was not permitted to attend the closed-session vote.

"I don't think the board should pay for his defense," said board President Bob Ooten. "He played his cards and he played hardball."

Ooten didn't mince words when it came to his feelings about Fitzpatrick's decision to dig in and not leave the elected seat.

"… Screw him. I don't care what happens to him," Ooten said. "I like Jim as a person, but I don't like his actions."

The board voted in February to try to remove Fitzpatrick, citing two legal opinions that his duty as a director likely conflicted with his role as a planner.

Though he argued that the dual posts were compatible and legal, Fitzpatrick resigned his Planning Commission seat in May in the hope that the move would appease his district peers, but to no avail.

Short on money to pay for his defense, he recently hosted a fundraiser in Costa Mesa; about 100 supporters attended, some contributing to his legal defense fund.

The checks were made to Fitzpatrick's 2014 reelection campaign for his Sanitary District seat. More than $2,000 was raised, he said.

He also had lunch with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) on Friday to pull in more cash.

Since he unseated incumbent Arlene Schafer in 2010, Fitzpatrick has repeatedly clashed with the rest of the board. He said it's because of his focus on trying to open up the district's contract for trash disposal, but board members contend that it's his accusatory tone about the board's priorities.

The district has spent more than $25,000 so far trying to kick oust Fitzpatrick.

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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