For all of its talk of a city-wide "financial crisis," the Costa Mesa City Council doesn't seem to believe its own spending needs to be curtailed. In two recent developments, the council went 54-percent over its legal fees budget in 2010-11 and the city signed another 90-day contract with its interim communications director without scouting for other options.
Besides providing the Orange County Employees Association with further fodder for criticism, the unchecked spending would also seem to devalue any claims the council makes about introducing a more fiscally conservative approach. If the council is, in fact, trying to "treat the city like its a business," it doesn't appear stockholders will be all too happy with the returns.
Jones & Mayer
, the city's legal counsel, charged $817,913 in fees during the last fiscal year, according to a report by the Daily Pilot
. That total is 54-percent over the budgeted amount, and is a record high the law firm has billed the city since the pair began working together in 2004.
Do as we say, not as we do...
Chasen Marshall/OC Weekly
The 2010-11 legal fees budget had been set at $530,550, but is being increased to $803,000 for 2011-12. According to the Daily Pilot story, most of the costs pertained to courtroom litigation for the Orange County Fairgrounds, medical marijuana dispensary lawsuits and lawsuits against police officers.
News of the legal spending has caused yet another bit of squabbling amongst the council, with Councilwoman Wendy Leece blaming her fellow council members.
A week prior to news of the legal spending, just as William Lobdell's 90-day contract was set to expire, CEO Tom Hatch announced at a council meeting that the council was committing another $50,000 to retaining Lobdell's services.
As A Bubbling Cauldron pointed out
, Lobdell has served a purpose, enhancing the communication and transparency of city hall, but the issue of his compensation remains a touchy subject.
What has the OCEA riled is that with all the supposed time and effort spent to outsource the jobs of 213 city workers, there wasn't a Request for Proposal put out for the communications director position to ensure the city is getting the best deal and the most for its money.