Lackie Dammeier

By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 11/14/13, 7:40 PM PST | Updated: 1 hr ago

An Upland law firm accused of double and triple-billing police union clients across Southern California and bullying two Costa Mesa councilmen now stands accused of planting a GPS tracking device on one of those councilmen’s cars.

And the alleged strong-arm tactics of the now dissolved law firm Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir, composed of mostly former police officers-turned lawyers, are believed to have extended to some of the firm’s more than 120 police union clients across Southern California, said Vince Finaldi, the attorney representing Costa Mesa Councilmen James Righeimer and Steve Mensinger, on Thursday.

“We’ve been getting calls from all kinds of people. It tells us this is not an isolated incident with Costa Mesa,” Finaldi said. “It’s a much bigger deal. That’s why the FBI is involved.”

Finaldi said he started receiving phone calls from other jurisdictions shortly after filing a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court on behalf of the two Costa Mesa councilmen. He declined to say what the other jurisdictions were, but Lackie, Dammeier represented police unions in San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Riverside and Orange counties.

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 Dammeier’s black Lexus, seizing a large stash of documents, video cameras, iPhones, iPads, and other computerized equipment.

One of the items seized from Dammeier’s home was described as a Handycam with GPS tracking capabilities, according to a search warrant inventory of items taken.

Finaldi and John Manly, another attorney representing the councilmen, announced Thursday the latest developments in their litigation outside the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach.

According to the amended lawsuit, Mensinger was recently made aware by district attorney’s investigators that the GPS tracking device had been placed on his vehicle during the 2012 Costa Mesa City Council elections.

“Defendants, acting in concert, placed plaintiff Mensinger under unauthorized electronic surveillance by affixing a law enforcement Global Positions Satellite spying device to the undercarriage of his personal motor vehicle, without his knowledge or consent, in order to unlawfully spy, surveil, investigate, and track plaintiff Mensinger,” according to the complaint.

The two councilmen were holdouts during contract negotiations between the city and the Costa Mesa Police Officers Association, which ultimately led to an impasse and what the plaintiffs allege was the law firm’s “dirty tricks.”

“I wouldn’t just call it dirty. I call it illegal,” Finaldi said. “It’s especially illegal to be doing this in a conspiracy against many elected and public officials.”

Stephen Larson, the attorney representing the defendants — Lackie, Dammeier, the Costa Mesa Police Officers Association and private investigator Christopher Lanzillo — denies his clients did anything wrong and were merely exercising their First Amendment rights. He has filed a motion with the court requesting the case be dismissed on those grounds.

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