Wu: Newport union should drop law firm

Let's revisit the last two weeks of August.

On Aug. 16, the Orange County Register Watchdog blog ripped law firm Lackie, Dammeier & McGill's playbook for twisting arms during impasse negotiations.

The firm suggested on its website that police associations should " … keep the pressure up until that person assures you his loyalty and then move on to the next victim."

The "victim" essentially refers to a politician unfavorable to an association's position.

Less than a week later, on Aug. 22, that playbook was followed step by step. Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer was tailed by someone in a white Kia and asked to take a field sobriety test on his front porch. Turns out, the only crime Righeimer committed was paying $3 for a diet soda at his friend's bar, Skosh Monahan's.

The Orange County district attorney is investigating whether private investigator Chris Lanzillo called in a false 911 report, as Righeimer claims, but no charges have been filed, and Lanzillo has stood by his reasoning for calling dispatch.

Nevertheless, Lackie, et al., and the Costa Mesa Police Assn. couldn't distance themselves fast enough from Lanzillo's actions.

Orange County Deputy Sheriff's Assn. President Tom Dominguez, on Aug. 24 told the Register that his outfit denounced the law firm and the "unethical tactics which its associates employ."

Not to be outdone, on Aug. 31, the Los Angeles Police Protective League said in the Daily Pilot that, "The LAPPL is not affiliated with this law firm and does not subscribe to the hardball tactics that the law firm promotes in its "'playbook.'"

Throughout all of this news coverage, it's nonchalantly mentioned in the Pilot that the Newport Beach Police Management (police sergeants and above) Assn. was represented by that same law firm.

An earlier version of this column incorrectly stated that the Newport Beach Police Assn. used the Lackie, Dammeier & McGill law firm. It is only the Newport Beach Police Management Assn. that uses the firm.

So, of course, the next logical step would be to find out if Newport dropped the firm, as the Costa Mesa Police Assn. had.

The NBPMA told me in an en email they are continuing to use the law firm.

"We are withholding judgment, as well as any decision regarding representation by the law firm until the investigation is complete," Sgt. Steve Rasmussen, president of the association, wrote. "With that being said, the allegations made against Lackie, Dammeier & McGill, APC are not consistent with our experience of their legal representation."

But it was Dieter Dammeier, the firm's managing partner, who told the Daily Pilot in a statement that, "When our clients are treated unfairly or unlawfully, yes, we are aggressive, within the limits of the law, to vindicate our client's position."

Aggressive. That's subjective, right? If negotiations are going well, everyone's happy. If negotiations aren't, a white Kia follows you around.

So, of course, how would the council members feel about the NBPMA still having Lackie as union counsel?

Mayor Nancy Gardner and Councilman Ed Selich said they have never seen any hardball tactics on the part of the NBPMA.

"Our negotiations have been by characterized by both firmness and goodwill on the part of both sides, and I would anticipate the same in the future," Gardner said.

Mayor Pro Tem Keith Curry had a different view, writing, "There is no place for these thug tactics and I hope our association will rethink their representation."

To clear a common misconception, no one is ever saying that our wonderful police officers are being thuggish and horrible.

I cannot thank them enough for the service they provide, but when they willingly employ a law firm that in its own words plays an "aggressive" role and calls opponents "victims," perhaps they should take full responsibility for what their surrogates advocate and move onto a more ethical law firm.

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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