Costa Mesa councilman wants committee member ousted for ‘Nazi’ comment
A Costa Mesa councilman is requesting that a city committee member be ousted from her post after she publicly compared a police officer to a Nazi.
Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer’s appeal to terminate Anna Vrska’s membership on the Fairview Park Citizens Advisory Committee is scheduled for Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
Vrska made the comment to the on-duty sergeant-at-arms during Monday’s Planning Commission meeting, when she and others were using the public-comment period to publicize Costa Mesa First’s website and recently certified initiative, which, if approved in November, would bring some new development projects up for a public vote.
Vrska, a Costa Mesa First volunteer, said she disagreed with the council chamber prohibition on clapping, which city officials consider disruptive.
“We residents have a First Amendment right, and clapping is allowed,” she told the officer from the speaker’s podium. “It’s not disruptive, so I would appreciate it if you weren’t such a Nazi about it.”
In an interview Thursday, Righeimer said he felt Vrska’s remarks were “disturbing” and unbecoming of a city committee member.
“That officer is there to protect your life,” Righeimer said. “You’re just not going to call somebody a Nazi in a public meeting and then stay on some committee in the city.”
In a statement to the Daily Pilot, Vrska called her words “misguided” and “inappropriate.”
“But it was a personal comment,” she added. “At no time did I indicate that I was representing any city committee, nor did I even mention that I was even on any committee.
“Now a councilman is coming after me for exercising my First Amendment right. Wow! I wasn’t aware I had to sign away my rights to be on a Costa Mesa committee.”
Righeimer appointed Vrska to the Fairview Park committee in April 2013. The nine-member panel, tasked with reexamining the 208-acre park’s master plan, hasn’t met since April last year and is on hiatus as the city updates its Open Space Master Plan of Parks and Recreation.
The committee isn’t scheduled to reconvene for another six to nine months, according to a city spokesman.
Righeimer’s request to terminate Vrska’s appointment is within council policy, according to city staff, and the council isn’t required to “show cause for such an action.”
In an email to the council and Planning Commission on Tuesday, Costa Mesa First assistant treasurer Cynthia McDonald apologized for Vrska’s statement, saying Vrska was not speaking on behalf of Costa Mesa First and that “her sentiments are not shared by our officers.”
“Going forward,” McDonald continued, “we are instructing all our volunteers to make certain their personal opinions are separated from the official positions of Costa Mesa First. It is our goal that the residents of Costa Mesa come first in the minds of our city, including police and fire personnel. It is unacceptable to publicly disparage them.”
Quickly after Vrska spoke Monday, Planning Commissioner Colin McCarthy called her comment “disparaging and despicable.”
He later added, “The absurdity of the no-growth hater crowd never ceases to amaze me, and I guess it never will.”