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Orange County Digest

Costa Mesa : Wheeler Reprimanded After Traffic Incident

April 03, 1985|Robert Hanley

City Councilman Dave Wheeler, accused of impersonating a police officer during a shouting match with a motorist last month, has been formally reprimanded by the City Council.

Vice Mayor Mary Hornbuckle, who introduced the motion, said the council took the action Monday because it wanted to make it "absolutely clear to the council and the public that improper behavior will not be condoned."

With Wheeler abstaining and Mayor Norma Herzog out of the country, the five-member council voted 3 to 0 Monday to reprimand Wheeler, who allegedly pulled out a badge issued by the City Council and identified himself as a police officer during an altercation with the motorist, Raymond Smith, on March 21, officials said. According to Hornbuckle, council members are issued badges identifying them as public officials.

Smith, who called Costa Mesa police after the incident, said he will not file any charges against the councilman. Smith said several of Wheeler's political opponents urged him to file charges and even offered to pay legal fees, but he declined because he didn't want to become a pawn of Wheeler's political foes.

Wheeler, who refused to comment on the incident last month, criticized the council's reprimand as "purely political."

"I disagree with the quickness with which they moved," said the 29-year-old trial lawyer. "I think they should have waited until the facts have fully developed." Wheeler said he was "impressed" with Smith's "fortitude in not yielding to political pressure."

Councilwoman Arlene Schafer, who seconded the motion to reprimand Wheeler, said the council was under pressure from members of the community to discipline him. "We were getting a lot of heat over what he did, and that's wrong," Schafer said.

The reprimand, which carries no penalty, was taken in an effort to protect the council's image, she said. "A lot of people called in who were upset," Schafer added.

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