Costa Mesa-based real estate consultant Rick Kapko looks to be the mystery adviser to a city council negotiating team on a potential purchase of the OC fairgrounds.
That information comes to Voice of OC by way of a bizarre voicemail message left on my phone late last week by Costa Mesa Planning Commissioner Jim Righeimer on the heels of a city council approval to appoint an unnamed advisor to fairgrounds negotiations.
“Hey buddy…Rick Kapko is fine,” said Righeimer seeming to be leaving a message for someone who had inside knowledge of last week’s city council closed-session deliberations.
“He just hadn’t heard because I hadn’t told him – because we’re not supposed to know what’s happening in closed session – that he was picked. So he’s fine. He’s great. He’s happy about it. He’ll sign the documents. He just hadn’t heard from anybody he was picked because I only told him you’re one of the people they’re looking at but you know I couldn’t tell him he was picked until after it had happened.”
Council members face a looming deadline in the private negotiations that are ongoing with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger over the fate of the fairgrounds.
The selection process for the council negotiating team, and it’s position regarding the state’s offer to sell the OC fairgrounds for $100 million has been controversial, with council members scrambling to influence the process behind the scenes.
It’s not clear who Righeimer thought he was speaking to but his message appears to be directed to a person who was either at the closed session or had very close knowledge about it.
Righeimer would not comment when asked if he knew anything about closed the session discussions on the negotiating team.
When told he had already commented on the matter, to a reporter’s voice mail, and heard the tape played, he abruptly ended the conversation repeating “not going to comment on it.”
Righeimer’s voice mail provides a rare glimpse into the behind-the-scenes jockeying that taxpayers rarely see but influences much of public policy.
Righeimer – an influential Republican party activist, planning commissioner and potential council candidate – was himself in contention as an appointee to advise the council on negotiations.
Local activists who came together in opposition to initial plans for selling the site were alarmed last week when word got out that City Manager Alan Roeder had heard Righeimer’s name proposed by an unnamed council member.
They say Righeimer has an agenda and plays hardball, at one point threatening activists directly by saying he could maneuver to have the equestrian lease at the fairgrounds canceled and the marketplace vendor replaced.
City attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow did not return a call for comment.
When played the voicemail recording, City Councilwoman Katrina Foley identified Righeimer’s voice immediately, saying “that is definitely Jim Righeimer.”
“That’s disappointing,” uttered Foley before saying that all further questions had to be posed to the city attorney because matters involved were discussed during a closed session.
Last week, Foley herself came under fire from Mayor Allan Mansoor at the weekly council meeting with Mansoor referencing comments from Foley about the status of negotiations to media outlets. Foley said all comments were approved by the city manager and did not violate any closed session discussions.
Mansoor’s frustrations regarding closed session policies came just after coming out of an illegally-noticed closed session meeting on the fairgrounds issue, along with other council members.
When asked about the legality of the closed session last week, Foley replied, “we’ve been advised to the appropriateness of the discussion”
Other council members at the closed session included Wendy Leece and Gary Monahan. Councilman Eric Bever was absent.
We’ll be putting calls out this morning to city officials and others for comment.
— NORBERTO SANTANA JR.