Police Involved in Costa Mesa Anniversary Investigation

A Costa Mesa police official confirmed that the department is involved in a city investigation into allegations that financial policies weren’t followed in the city’s 60th anniversary event this summer.

The confirmation, which was first reported by the Daily Pilot, comes amid a controversy over the city’s refusal to release several contracts and financial records for the event, including its contract with a company co-owned by Orange County Republican Party Chairman Scott Baugh. The city cited an exemption of the Public Records Act typically used for law enforcement investigations.

On Monday afternoon, Costa Mesa police spokesman Lt. Greg Scott told Voice of OC that the department is indeed involved in the city’s investigation.

“It’s not uncommon for the Police Department to assist the city’s other departments with conducting joint investigations,” he added.

Scott would not cite any other instances of this happening, “but just as a matter of practice, it’s not untypical,” he said.

Asked about reports that police removed documents from City Hall offices as part of the anniversary investigation, Scott referred comment to city Assistant CEO Rick Francis, who declined to confirm or deny the reports.

“Police are conducting a thorough investigation which may necessitate the seeking of records that” they deem necessary, said Francis.

A Superior Court spokeswoman said last week that the court had no record of search warrants served at Costa Mesa City Hall’s address in recent months.

Asked under what authority police could seize records from employees’ offices, Francis said that in general, workplace searches are allowed without a warrant.

“There’s got to be some reasonable cause for that. But a workspace is not private space per se, so therefore there’s no need to obtain a search warrant to do that,” said Francis.

More intrusive searches, such as of an employee’s locked file cabinet, would be different, he added.

“In a standard office environment, there’s no need for a search warrant, especially for a city facility,” said Francis.

The Daily Pilot reported that police “recently asked the Daily Pilot’s advertising staff for a copy of the newspaper’s contract with the city regarding the 60th [anniversary event]. The Pilot was an event sponsor, trading online and print advertising for banners, a booth and other representation at the event. The newsroom was not involved in the agreement.”

You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.