Shooting sparks online outcry about security firm
*This column has been corrected, as noted below.
The senseless massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando has many reactingin different ways.
In Las Vegas, for example, Out For Liberty is offering free gun classes to LGBT nightclub workers. Nevada, unlike Florida, allows bartenders to arm themselves.
“To Tell the Truth,” which I wrote about last week, rescheduled its planned episode about dealing with “Tupperware Drag Queens” to June 21. When I was at the taping, there were some funny comments made about Tupperware’s annual Orlando Jubilee. Since the shootings, producers felt it was too soon to joke about this city, and I agree.
And while many on Facebook are showing their solidarity with the LGBT community and victims, are lines of civility being crossed in Costa Mesa?
Costa Mesa Mayor Steve Mensinger thinks so.
He takes issue with a posting on the Facebook group called “Costa Mesa.” Resident Greg Ridge posted a story Monday from The Guardian about international security firm G4S’ shares plunging in the United Kingdom. Orlando shooter Omar Mateen worked for G4S.
Ridge’s post came with the comment, “G4S was chosen by our City Council majority to run our jails.”
The council made that outsourcing decision in 2013, arguing it would save the city money.
G4S has stated that Mateen was subject to a detailed screening prior to his employment in 2007, then re-screened in 2013, with no adverse findings. He was also interviewed by the FBI in 2013 and 2014, though no findings were reported to G4S.
Obviously something went terribly wrong here for this guy to fly under the radar.
But we’ve seen this before. G4S isn’t the first large organization —nor will it be the last, unfortunately — that will face this issue with a disturbed individual. It’s a sad fact of the times we live in.
To tie this to Costa Mesa is a stretch, to say the least, one Mensinger argues is politically motivated by a member of Costa Mesans for Responsible Government, an organization that opposes his politics.
“As the mayor of a city I see more than my fair share of despicable acts,” he says. “But when a political group like CMR4G uses a paid social media consultant to exploit a national tragedy, I am sickened. We are all Americans today.”
Ridge, however, wasn’t paid for the post on the security company. And the post wasn’t endorsed — or opposed, for that matter — by CM4RG. It was made independent of the group, just a guy speaking his mind.
Robin Leffler, CM4RG president, said online that Ridge simply shared his opinion as an individual, not on behalf of the organization. And while he has been paid to post and boost CM4RG Internet ads in the past, that was not the case with the G4S story.
Leffler later told me, speaking in her own words and not CM4RG’s, that she questions how well G4S vets its employees. She wondered how thoroughly City Hall investigated G4S’ background-check policy. Then she added that it would be a good idea to “have a sit-down with the local bosses to be sure they are still satisfied with how the contract labor is screened” at G4S.
“It might be a good time for our electeds to reassure themselves and the residents that all due diligence has and will be done to protect us from messed-up kooks like the one in Florida,” Leffler said. “That’s my concern about how this relates to Costa Mesa.”
I called Ridge and messaged him on Facebook but didn’t hear back in time to get his reaction to the mayor’s statements.
I asked Mensinger if the council will reconsider its contract with G4S.
He said no, explaining every day there are people who commit crimes who work for businesses in his city. He doesn’t feel the city or residents should stop doing business with them based on one person’s actions.
Mensinger went on to say G4S employs thousands and has many government contracts.
He feels connecting what happened in Orlando to Costa Mesa in this way is “offensive.”
But whether you agree with Mensinger’s take or not, there needs to be constructive dialogue, not only as it relates to terrorism on our shores, guns and mental illness, but also about local attitudes toward the LGBT community.
I’ve written articles about the underlying homophobia smoldering not only within the Orange County board of education, but on the Newport Beach City Council.
Let’s not forget last summer’s scandal created by Newport Councilman Scott Peotter’s email denouncing the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage.
And if you think that’s old news, think again.
In the wake of Orlando, one resident sees a continuing homophobic trend in Newport government. On June 12, someone wrote to the council objecting to a Planning Commission nominee.
FOR THE RECORD
June 22, 1:45 p.m.: An earlier version of this column inaccurately attributed the letter to the City Council to Steven Pawliczek. In fact, Mr. Pawliczek did not write the letter but someone signed his name to it. In addition, the content in the letter criticizing Planning Commission nominee Bill Dunlap has been removed, as it came from the false letter. The Daily Pilot regrets the error.
8:12 p.m.: A previous version of this article included a photograph that had been digitally altered.
Atitudes around this town need to change, and a good way to start is with the ballot box in November.
BARBARA VENEZIA lives in Newport Beach. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.