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OC Councilman Claims Police Report Was A Set Up By A Political Opponent

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COSTA MESA (CBSLA.com) — An Orange County city councilman thinks a political opponent set him up by calling police and accusing him of driving recklessly. He told the Daily Pilot that call led officers to his house, where they put him through a field sobriety test while standing on his porch.

The newspaper reported that when Righeimer arrived home from work at about 6 p.m. Wednesday, he noticed a police car racing down the street and thought the officer was headed to an area in the neighborhood where there have been some drug problems.

Moments later, Righeimer said he saw the officer talking to someone in a parked car on the block, and soon after the officer was on his front porch asking for him, Righeimer said.

“I hear my wife say, `I’ll get my husband,”‘ Righeimer told the newspaper. “The officer said, `Have you been drinking tonight? Someone said you were swerving and racing down the street.”‘

The officer conducted a field sobriety test on Righeimer’s front porch and concluded that he was not driving under the influence, Righeimer said.

The councilman called the episode “horrible.”

Righeimer told the officer he was a councilman and believed someone was setting him up to be embarrassed.

“I finally said, `I’m on the City Council in Costa Mesa and we’re in the middle of (labor) negotiations,”‘ Righeimer said. “This is a set-up, and I need to know who (his accuser) is.”

Meanwhile, Righeimer’s wife left the house to confront the man in the parked car the officer had been talking to before conducting the sobriety test on the councilman.

“My wife went out in the street to stop him,” Righeimer said. “He stopped and she said, `Who are you?’ and he grumbled something and almost ran over her toe and zipped off.”Righeimer said the man was driving a white Kia with no license plates on it. Righeimer said he has been told there’s an investigation on a false report.

Costa Mesa police Thursday night released a statement verifying Righeimer’s description of that night’s events.

Police reported the department received a call about 6 p.m. Wednesday, from a motorist saying he was “following a possibly intoxicated driver.”

The caller provided a description of the vehicle and he followed it to a residence at Fairview Road and Avocado Avenue, police said. When an officer arrived on scene, he spoke with the caller, who pointed out the residence of the driver he followed, according to police.

“The officer made contact with the driver, identified as City Council member Jim Righeimer, and determined that Mr. Righeimer had not been drinking and was not under the influence,” according to the report.

“The police department is currently looking into the initial information received to ensure its validity,” according to the statement from police.

Righeimer will hold a news conference Friday morning to answer questions from reporters about Wednesday’s incident.

The city official has led the effort to privatize city jobs to save money on rising pension costs. The City Council has placed a measure on the November ballot asking voters to make Costa Mesa a charter city, which would give city officials more authority to set lower wages for city workers and privatize more jobs.

The union representing city workers has legally challenged this initiative. A panel of appellate justices last week sided with a lower court ruling halting Costa Mesa officials from outsourcing city jobs to private companies until there’s a trial on the issue.

Righeimer has also voted for an ordinance making the process of labor negotiations more public.

Before Righeimer was elected to the City Council in 2010 he got into another conflict with police, according to City News Service. Righeimer drove through a DUI checkpoint, parked his car and walked back to talk to the supervisor because he felt the location of the checkpoint at Harbor Boulevard and Gisler Avenue near the San Diego (405) Freeway was leading to traffic problems. Officers allegedly said Righeimer, who was chairman of the planning commission at the time, pulled out a city badge and demanded the checkpoint be shut down. Righeimer denied the accusation.

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