SACRAMENTO — Freshman Assemblyman Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach) acknowledged Monday that his colleagues are punishing him for threatening some Democratic lawmakers and for calling a well-liked Sacramento lobbyist "an old man whose . . . time is past due."
Because some legislators are reportedly determined "to teach Gil a little humility," Ferguson said, he has relinquished control of a bill that would limit noise at the controversial Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa.
The name of veteran Assemblywoman Jean M. Duffy (D-Citrus Heights) was quietly placed on the bill last week, Ferguson said, because several Democratic legislators had indicated they would not support the measure if Ferguson were listed as its author. The bill is scheduled for a vote in the Assembly Agriculture Committee today.
'No Need for Applause'
Duffy refused to comment on the switch, but Ferguson said he consented to the change because he wanted to save the bill, which comes up for hearing today.
"I have no need for applause or to win laurels. But I do have a need to have my bill pass," said Ferguson, whose district includes the 18,000-seat outdoor amphitheater.
Ferguson, who last year earned the nickname "Rambo" after he questioned the patriotism of Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica), was quoted last month in a story in the Orange Coast Daily Pilot about the Pacific Amphitheatre bill. In the article, Ferguson said he would not be intimidated by the amphitheater's Sacramento lobbyist, 79-year-old James D. (The Judge) Garibaldi, who had successfully engineered the defeat of a similar bill last year.
"I have no use for Garibaldi. He is just an old man whose name and fame have controlled the Legislature. . . . His time is past due," Ferguson said in the article.
Garibaldi, a former assemblyman and Merced County Superior Court judge who has been a Sacramento lobbyist for 40 years, said Monday that he had not seen the Pilot article and was surprised that "anyone would be that upset about it."
"All my friends would laugh about it," said Garibaldi, who insists he had nothing to do with the apparent attempt to teach Ferguson a lesson.
Ferguson also angered some legislators earlier this month when he scolded and pointed fingers at Democratic Assemblymen Richard Robinson of Garden Grove, Gerald R. Eaves of Rialto and Dan Hauser of Arcata after their votes killed another Ferguson bill, this one aimed at eliminating the perceived conflict of interest inherent in a combined sheriff-coroner office.
Robinson Denies Role
Robinson said he had nothing to do with any attempt to humble Ferguson. And Ferguson said both Eaves and Hauser, neither of whom were available for comment, had assured him that "they had not asked that anything be done on the (Pacific Amphitheatre) bill."
None of the three are on the Agriculture Committee, which is considering the bill because the amphitheater is located on the state-owned Orange County Fairgrounds. But Ferguson said lobbyist Dennis Carpenter, who represents the City of Costa Mesa, heard complaints about the incident involving the three Democrats and the comments regarding Garibaldi when he sought support from committee members for today's hearing on the amphitheater bill.
Carpenter confirmed that the switch was made to save the bill, which would force the amphitheater to abide by city noise standards but refused comment beyond that.
"I'd rather not get into it," the veteran lobbyist said. "Now, if you want to talk about the bill and its merits, I'll talk to you about that all day."
Fair Operators Opposed
Since the amphitheater opened in 1983, the City of Costa Mesa has been trying unsuccessfully to police noise associated with concerts. But the facility, although privately operated, is not subject to local ordinances because it is located on the state-owned fairgrounds.
Fair operators around the state oppose the city's attempt to police the noise. They fear it would encourage other local governments to subject fairs to their whims. California's 54 county fairs are all held on state-owned land.
Norbert J. Bartosik, Orange County Fair general manager, said the local fair board is opposed to Ferguson's bill because it has a lawsuit pending against Ned West Inc., the amphitheater operator, which could eventually force a lowering of volume at concerts.
Last year, Sen. John Seymour (R-Anaheim) had a similar bill that stalled in the Senate.