Costa Mesa city officials announced last night that they have appointed two city council members — Gary Monahan and Katrina Foley — to a special committee that will advise the city manager on how to approach a potential purchase of the Orange County fairgrounds from the state.
Then in a strange twist, city officials also disclosed that they decided in closed session to also appoint advisers to the advisers. But they can’t tell anyone who those people are…yet.
When the council discussed the issue in open session, tensions ran high.
Fair activists were worried that controversial Planning Commissioner Jim Righeimer would be the key adviser to the advisers. They said he threatened to use his connections to kill the contracts of the swap meet operator and the equestrian lease on the fairgrounds because of their opposition to the sale. And they don’t want him anywhere near the sale negotiations.
City Manager Alan Roeder confirmed that he had heard complaints about Righeimer’s actions. Righeimer has declined comment.
Former Costa Mesa Mayor Sandy Genis, president of the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society, urged council members to just make all appointments in open session.
That triggered some serious handwringing on the council dais.
Councilwoman Wendy Leece asked the city attorney if they could structure the ad-hoc, task force subcommittee about the fair grounds in public under the agenda item of appointments.
Then Councilwoman Katrina Foley suggested a brief break to talk to the city attorney.
“I don’t think we should be doing this up on the dais,” Foley said.
Foley’s motion to go back into closed session failed on a 2-2 vote, with Mayor Allan Mansoor and Councilman Gary Monahan voting against. Foley then asked for a five-minute break, Mansoor put his hands to his face and was visibly frustrated.
Then Foley walked into the back room with the attorney. And that was the end of it.
When asked for details of the advisory, advisory group, Leece said “we have to be transparent.”
She walked away frustrated mentioning that an announcement on the advisors would be forthcoming.
— NORBERTO SANTANA JR.
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