By Lauren Williams and Bradley Zint
6:26 PM PDT, October 24, 2012
The Orange County district attorney's office is considering misdemeanor charges against a Costa Mesa city employee accused of destroying political campaign signs, officials confirmed Wednesday.
The 33-year-old man is also a Costa Mesa resident. Approached at his door Monday evening, the man declined to speak with a reporter. The Daily Pilot is withholding his name because he has not been arrested or charged with a crime.
D.A. spokeswoman Farrah Emami said her office received the case Tuesday, but it is still being reviewed.
Costa Mesa police received a report of someone destroying campaign signs near Fair and Columbia drives about 9:10 p.m. Saturday. The damaged signs were in support of Measure V, the proposed city charter, as well as the "3M" candidates, Councilmen Steve Mensinger and Gary Monahan and Planning Commissioner Colin McCarthy.
When police arrived, they were informed of the incident by a private investigator working for a councilman.
On Sunday, the Costa Mesa Taxpayers Assn. posted a video of a man tearing and vandalizing signs. They also offered a reward — which is now up to $1,000 — for information that confirms his identity.
CMTA President Jim Fitzpatrick said the area of contention along Fair Drive has had more 100 "3M" and "Yes on Measure V" signs "maliciously destroyed" in the past two weekends.
That was how a videographer came to target that area, he said.
"How many other union people are involved?" he said, adding that he finds it "disturbing" that a city employee may have had something to do with the incident.
A representative for the Orange County Employees Assn., which represents about 200 Costa Mesa employees, said she would not speculate about who may be charged but that the council majority is trying to distract voters with the issue of sign vandalism.
"It seems to me that the council has tried to jam through this charter with limited public input behind closed doors, and now that their charter plan is not doing a good job of standing public scrutiny, they're trying to focus on a diversion," said OCEA spokeswoman Jennifer Muir, whose organization opposes Measure V.
Although she believes the destruction of campaign signs is something that has happened for years during election seasons, the OCEA would stand with others against the vandalism because their signs have also been destroyed.
City CEO Tom Hatch said Monday that the city is conducting a "confidential personnel/administrative investigation," but did not further clarify the statement.