Wu: Why did caller tell 911 he was meeting a friend?

In celebration of Labor Day, I wanted to take a look at Costa Mess' (Mesa's) favorite union operative Chris Lanzillo and the Costa Mesa Police Assn.'s (CMPA) timing in the Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer/DUI debacle.

Let's go through the timeline.

On Aug. 22, Righeimer is given a sobriety test in front of his house and young children and found to be ... stone-cold sober.

Over the next couple of days, press conferences are held, and the Daily Pilot gets a copy of the 911 tape, which identifies Lanzillo — a former Riverside police officer, private investigator and a consultant for CMPA's legal muscle, Lackie, Dammeier & McGill — as the caller.

According to the 911 transcript published in the Orange County Register, Lanzillo said, "I was meeting a friend over at some location. I can't remember the name of it now, and I saw him, like, stumbling out of this location. I don't know, maybe he's disabled."

Then, in Lanzillo's statement to the Pilot, he said that he was on another assignment when he spotted Righeimer getting into his SUV outside of Skosh Monahan's on Newport Boulevard.

Which was it? Was he meeting a friend over at some location (as he told the 911 operator) he couldn't remember the name of? Or was he on another assignment at a location he knew when he spotted Righeimer? (As he told the Pilot.)

And if he were on assignment, which means he was getting paid to watch someone else, why would he just leave that job to watch a supposedly stumbling Righeimer (which the Skosh Monahan's video indicates he wasn't), follow him home (when the 911 operators told him not to), and probably waste 30 to 60 minutes?

If I had hired Lanzillo to surveil someone, I'd be pretty pissed off and would ask for my money back because, dollars to doughnuts, his supposed "target" probably could have left Monahan's and been lost for the night right after my P.I. performed his public service.

Lanzillo surely covets public safety more than his business, right?

Then Lanzillo has the guts to question the integrity of the Costa Mesa police officer's actions, calling it "suspicious" because Righeimer wasn't given a Breathalyzer, and then later complained that he was harassed by the department, which questioned him after he made the call and opened an investigation.

That's perfect: Insult the integrity of the police officers who are investigating you.

Now onto the CMPA and its wonderful timing when firing the firm for which Lanzillo worked.

On Aug. 16, the OC Watchdog column in the Register ripped Lackie, Dammeier & McGill's playbook for twisting arms during impasse negotiations, saying that the police associations should "keep the pressure up until that person assures you his loyalty and then move on to the next victim."

Does CMPA terminate this law firm in mid-August, after reading about the law firm's tactics?


That same O.C. Watchdog, at 1 a.m. Aug. 24, without even mentioning the Righeimer incident, lists three major police associations in the county that don't use that law firm and overwhelmingly denounce its tactics, which Santa Ana Police Assn. President John Franks says "put citizens' and officers' safety in jeopardy."

Yet it takes the CMPA until the end of the day, and only after Lanzillo's affiliation is discovered, to fire Lackie, Dammeier & McGill "for being too aggressive."

The CMPA already knew the firm's tactics for at least a week, and probably longer, but it wasn't until Lanzillo was suspected of actually being "too aggressive" that they fired the law firm?

But wait. If Lanzillo wasn't hired by the law firm to follow Righeimer, as the law firm contends, doesn't the timing of the firing of the firm indicate that Lanzillo's tactics had something to do with the decision?

If Lackie, Dammeier & McGill weren't responsible for Lanzillo's actions, as they say, then how were they being too aggressive?

Why did the CMPA fire the firm? Clearly the firm crossed some line that led the CMPA to rethink its contract.

The CMPA should give its reasons to the public.


Forum is Wednesday

Anyway, if you want to see some real fun and games, go to the Wednesday Feet to the Fire Forum, where yours truly, as well as my fearless leader John Canalis, my former fearless leader, the Newport Beach Independent's Editor Roger Bloom, as well as the OC Register's columnists Barbara Venezia and Frank Mickadeit get to grill the Costa Mesa City Council candidates until they are just a bit over medium rare.

Pretty sure we're going to be talking about the Righeimer-Lanzillo issue quite a bit.

JACK WU is an accountant who lives in Newport Beach and practices in Costa Mesa. He is a longtime Republican Party loyalist and a volunteer campaign treasurer for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa). His column runs Sundays on the Daily Pilot Forum page. He can be reached at jack@wubell.com.

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