Things could get interesting at tonight's Costa Mesa city council meeting as city officials meet in closed session and consider adding Republican activist and planning commissioner Jim Righeimer to their fairgrounds negotiating team.
Given his real estate and finance background, the thinking goes that Righeimer could be helpful in looking over deal points because the city is cash-strapped for consultants and on a tight deadline.
But activists against the sale of the fair who met privately with Righeimer last November say his approach - and tactics - make them wary of adding him to the already-delicate deal.
For example, Righeimer allegedly threatened to use his connections to pull the equestrian lease at the site and yank the contract for the vender who runs the weekend swap meet on the fairgrounds.
Righeimer declined comment on the allegations.
City Manager Alan Roeder confirmed that there has been discussion about adding Righeimer to an advisory committee that would work with official negotiators. He also confirmed that he had heard complaints about Righeimer's private meetings last fall but said nothing formal was ever filed.
The issue, from a city perspective, Roeder said, is that appointed commissioners don't always have the same freedom as individuals when it comes to discussing city issues. And that was the issue with Righeimer.
"Jim sometimes doesn't separate his role as an appointed planning commissioner from his own personal opinions," Roeder said.
"It bothered a number of people," he said about the complaints heard at city hall. "There were people that felt uneasy about his speaking as though he was representing the city."
Given the tight deadlines on negotiations with the state, Roeder said, "there's a legitimate question of whether we need more cooks in the kitchen at this point. This clock is ticking."
-- NORBERTO SANTANA JR.