A former Costa Mesa city employee accused of vandalizing campaign signs won permission from an Orange County Superior Court judge Monday to delay his arraignment so that he can retain an attorney.
Steven Charles White, 39, will be arraigned March 25. Judge Brett London of the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach granted the continuance so that White could seek counsel on the misdemeanor charge. If convicted, White faces a $1,000 fine, restitution, and probation or up to a year in jail.
The Costa Mesa resident is accused of destroying campaign signs posted along Fair Drive on Oct. 20. White, a city maintenance worker at the time, was videotaped in the act by a private investigator looking into campaign sign vandalism, prosecutors said.
The Costa Mesa Taxpayers Assn. posted a two-minute segment that depicted a barefoot man accompanied by a dog. In the video, he is seen ripping a sign supporting the 3Ms slate — comprised of City Councilmen Steve Mensinger, Gary Monahan and Planning Commission Chairman Colin McCarthy — before throwing the pieces in a bush.
The man is also shown throwing a "Yes on Measure V" sign into a driveway.
The videotape was one instance within a heavily politicized and heated November election selection that, in part, pitted the City Council majority and its supporters against organized labor and a nonpartisan community group, Costa Mesans for Responsible Government, whose signs also were stolen and damaged.
White was placed on paid administrative leave for reasons not made public shortly after the Oct. 20 incident. On Jan. 25, two days after the Orange County district attorney's office announced its misdemeanor charge against White, the city issued a terse statement saying White was no longer a Costa Mesa employee.
City officials declined to elaborate on the personnel investigation or whether White left voluntarily, involuntarily or by mutual consent.
Jennifer Muir, spokeswoman for the Orange County Employees Assn., which represented White during his tenure at the city, called the D.A.'s charge an instance of inequality for typical campaign "shenanigans."
"In a county that is steeped in political corruption, which is overlooked for the rich and powerful, the fact that a low-paid working man is charged for removing a lawn sign during a contested election speaks volumes about the disparity in the administration of justice in Orange County," Muir told the Daily Pilot at the time.