It was just a routine Orange County Health department inspection, but with Marie Kolasinski, the founder of the Piecemakers religious sect who recently served jail time for an earlier run-in with the county, it became an opportunity for her on Monday to rail against the government with a captive audience of reporters.
In fact, the controversial Piecemakers organization invited reporters to be on hand when the county inspectors visited the group's Country Store in Costa Mesa. Throughout, the fiery 85-year-old vowed to continue her battles with local government.
The Piecemakers' struggle with the county has continued since the mid-'90s. It reached its apex in January, when Kolasinski was sentenced to 10 days in jail — and served 7 days — for operating a restaurant without a permit and for blocking Orange County health inspectors. She was also sentenced to three years of probation and required to attend anger-management classes. Piecemakers Judy Haeger, 59, and Doug Follette, 52, were sentenced then to three years' probation and ordered to do 30 days of community service. Kolasinski, Haeger and Follette were ordered to pay $9,074 in restitution to the health department. Since then, the Piecemakers have stopped selling food at the store.
"We had a permit but not the one that they wanted," Kolasinski said Monday.
During the walk-through, Kolasinski pointed out all the places where food was once sold or prepared, and other areas that the Piecemakers clashed over with the government.
"They wanted us to drill a hole right there, in the middle of the floor," Kolasinski said, arguing that the hole would have just provided a doorway into the restaurant for cockroaches.
Kolasinski has five anger-management classes left, but they don't appear to have mellowed her.
"My anger remains steady and constant," Kolasinski said.
Signs posted on the shop's front glass doors stated that free meals would be served in the kitchen, and that "under the protection of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America all government inspectors are prohibited from entering..." The sign citing the protection against unlawful search and seizure also had a warning that all "snitches" caught in the store would be subject to "house arrest."
"Keep your nose out of my business as I open my tearoom and run it the way God would have me run it," the sign read.
Inside the Piecemakers store in Costa Mesa staff anxiously waited for inspectors, who were scheduled to arrive at 9 a.m. The group said it plans to sue the county for millions and that the Piecemakers expect a Los Angeles-based lawyer to call this week about their case.
After getting the OK from health officials on Monday, Kolasinski confronted Orange County Health Inspector Mike Haller and her parole officer, demanding reimbursement of $200,000 she claimed the Piecemakers are owed in fines and legal fees. Also, she demanded that her probation be suspended and her anger- management classes be canceled.
"You got us into all of this [expletive]," Kolasinski said. "We're spiraling down into nothing, and you're acting like everything is fine."
Haller just told her that was beyond his authority and that he was satisfied that the Piecemakers were no longer serving food. But Kolasinski is not satisfied with the government's terms.
"God wants his country back. I want my tearoom back, and I want my life back," she said.