The Watch Dog: Former Cops Law Firm Plays Dirty
By Derek Obregon
It isn’t always the politicians that are dirty; it can be the cops as well. One such case involves an Upland law firm that is accused of double and even triple-billing police union clients across southern California.
Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir is the now-dissolved law firm that represented San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Riverside and Orange County. It was composed mostly of former police officers that eventually turned into lawyers. It is believed they extended their reach to more than 120 police union clients, stated Vince Finaldi, the attorney representing Costa Mesa Councilmen James Righeimer and Steve Mensinger.
The lawsuit was filed in Orange County Superior Court on behalf of the two Costa Mesa Councilmen, but the FBI is getting in on this action because calls have been coming in from other jurisdictions as well.
In October, FBI agents and investigators from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office raided the Upland law office, Dieter Dammeier’s Rancho Cucamonga home and his black Lexus. They seized a large stash of documents, video cameras, iPhones, iPads, and other computerized equipment, including a Handycam with GPS tracking capabilities.
According to the lawsuit, Mensinger was recently made aware by the district attorney’s investigators that the GPS tracking device had been placed on his vehicle during the 2012 Costa Mesa City Council elections. It was a law enforcement GPS spying device that was placed under Mensinger’s car, without his knowledge or consent, to unlawfully spy, surveil, investigate and track him.
This might have come about because the two councilmen were holdouts during a contract negotiation between the city of Costa Mesa Police Officers Association. Stephen Larson is representing the defendants (Lackie, Dammeier, the Costa Mesa Police Officers Association and private investigator Christopher Lanzillo) and says his clients were merely defending their first amendment rights. Larson hopes the case will be dismissed on those grounds.
Finaldi feels like this is just an attempt to prevent the defendants from testifying because they would most likely have to use their Fifth Amendment rights to avoid incriminating themselves.
Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir was founded in 1997 by retired Riverside County sheriff’s Deputy Michael Lackie and Dammeier, a reserve San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy. The website had a section titled, “Negotiations after impasse,” which showed strategies to get labor makers to give in to their demands. Storming city council meetings and saying council members had a lack of concern for public safety was one of the tactics the firm said to use.
That section was removed from the website after the lawsuit was filed.
In addition, the law firm was removed from the panel of approved providers from the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) when it found evidence that they were double and triple billing other practices. PORAC is working alongside law enforcement on this criminal investigation.