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California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal Monday denied an attempt by the Costa Mesa Police Association to block a lawsuit by Mayor Steve Mensinger, Councilman Jim Righeimer and his wife Lene that alleges illegal surveillance and harassment incidents by the union.

The appellate court rejected an argument by the union and private investigators it hired that the lawsuit interferes with their First Amendment rights.

However, the court sent the case back to a trial judge to reconsider whether the same principle can be applied to throw out charges against the union of negligence, infliction of emotional distress, unfair business practices, invasion of privacy and defamation.

The 2013 lawsuit brought by the council members concerns incidents that took place 2012, amidst the police union’s contract negotiations and an attempt led by Righeimer and Mensinger to outsource several city services.

Prosecutors allege that the union, their attorney and private investigators conspired to illegally track and harass the two councilmen ahead of the 2012 election, including an incident where one investigator called 911 to report Righeimer as a drunk driver and the illegal placement of a GPS tracking device on Mensinger’s car without his knowledge.

The councilmen are alleging 15 charges against the police union, including negligence, negligent hiring, emotional distress, civil conspiracy, unfair business practices, invasion of privacy and assault.

Read the full court opinion on their website.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.

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