Uh-Oh! They're Back!
I write to you from a distant venue, barely dealing with issues using dial-up internet service, but still eager to help you stay abreast of important issues in Costa Mesa and environs.
CATCHING YOU OFF-GUARD
As you try to get yourselves sorted out from a summer that included a month of the Orange County Fair - where record crowds took some of the edge off the rancorous rhetoric about who should own that property and how it should be configured - and another month where the Costa Mesa City Council acted like it was running a business in France and basically took the entire month of August off, the council is hoping to catch you in a post-holiday malaise and slip some important stuff past you Tuesday evening.
CONSENT CALENDAR SPENDING
In the Consent Calendar, which is normally voted on as one vote without discussion unless someone decides more discussion is needed on a specific item, there are things of note to consider. First, there are five (5) Warrant resolutions - those items that authorize and recognize the payment of valid expenses. These total almost $4.5 million this time around! And, while the "process" continues to make it difficult to read these things online - you have to cock your head 90 degrees or turn you computer on it's side - the little crick in your neck is worth is. As you scan the entries you'll find one, for example, for Talon Executive Services for almost $14,000 for "legal" services. We think that's the charge for re-investigating the Huy Pham death which resulted in nothing new - he leaped to his death last St. Patrick's Day.
JONES & MAYER
You'll also find that we have paid Jones & Mayer, our outsourced legal group, $115,901.11 for services rendered. We continue to throw money at them at a rate well above the budgeted amount. But wait, the story gets even better.
WE NEEDED "LITIGATORS"
You may recall that one of the reasons we decided to contract with an outside firm in the first place was because, at that time, it was felt that our in-house legal team lacked the litigation experience necessary. So, we hooked up with Jones & Mayer to provide a full-service, one-stop-shop for our legal needs.
However, way down at the end of the Consent Calendar - items 12 and 13 - we find requests for the council to approve retaining TWO additional law firms to help with our growing legal entanglements. The first, #12, is with the firm of Jones Day to provide legal services in the lawsuit between the city and the "Costa Mesa Employees Association". That's how it is phrased in the item, but I suspect it's supposed to be "Costa Mesa City Employees Association". Ah, those darn details... Anyhow, Jones Day happily proposes a one-time arrangement in which they will be providing services at a rate of $495.00 per hour for any time taken by ANY lawyer (including first year associates) in the firm on our case - plus expenses! And, of course, there is no estimate about the duration or cost of this engagement. Holy cow!
HANSONBRIDGETT "A DEAL"
Item #13, is an arrangement with the San Francisco law firm of HansonBridgett for "legal services in connection with the outsourcing of certain municipal services". This is apparently codifying an already existing relationship, so I find myself wondering if this outfit was one of those who managed to overlook City Council Policy 100-6 for more than 4 months. This firm apparently is a real bargain because they are going to bill us only $325.00 per hour for the primary lawyer and $295.00 for another fellow. And, of course, they're going to bill us for "expenses", too. No photocopy, no phone call, no deep breath drawn on our behalf will go unbilled, as was the case with Jones Day, too.
THE METER KEEPS ON SPINNING
And just what, pray tell, is Jones & Mayer doing in all this? Well, contract City Attorney, Tom Duarte, is "overseeing" all this action and deciding how the city's money will be spent. So, our contract attorney is managing our sub-contract attorney - actually, two of them - and we're still paying them $175.00 per hour for that service. In the meantime, that old meter just keeps spinning.
Further on down in the agenda, under New Business, you'll find some nuggets. Some make sense, others seem just a little strange.
Under #3, the council will receive an update on the PERS retirement system. This should be very interesting. Consultant John Bartels has presented them with an excellent staff report.
OPEN GOVERNMENT PROPOSAL
Next comes Wendy Leece's request to modify the municipal code requiring reporting ALL ex parte communications by council members. While this seems like a good idea - a logical one - I want to hear any arguments against it.
HOMELESS TASK FORCE
Item #5 is an update on the activities of the Homeless Task Force. I'm looking forward to hearing this information, too. They've been working hard and have an aggressive agenda for the remainder of the year.
The next item is a weird one - a resolution to have the CEO place signs on city -owned properties warning about the environmental dangers of amalgam dental fillings... Really?
KOCI NEEDS MONEY
Then radio station KOCI is asking for a grant of $5,655 to purchase and install an Emergency Alert System. They are apparently willing to trade the city more than $6,000 of advertising/programming for this grant. Might be a good deal. I know there has been conversation about some regular interview programming recently.
RFP EVALUATION PROCESS - FINALLY!
Then, under #8, the council will finally consider a process for the evaluation of the Requests for Proposal (RFP) that have been, and are being, issued for the outsourcing scheme. Some will say, "It's about time!" They've been at this for months and now finally will consider a process?!
CONTRACTING COMMITTEE STATUS UPDATE
Item #9 is related to 8 - a Status update on Contracting Committees. This should be very interesting because of the difficulty the city and the bargaining unit had putting these together once Council Policy 100-6 was finally unearthed.
Then, finally, the Big Elephant on the agenda - the major reorganization of several city departments. This is a whopper! And, based on the earlier agenda, it's very likely that this will be discussed very, very late in the evening. And, as I've stated many times in the past, councils typically don't make good decisions when the clock passes midnight.
TAKE A LOOK AT THESE CHANGES!
1.Information Technology Division becomes a division within the Finance Department;
2.Recreation Division becomes a division within the Public Services Department;
3.Human Resources/Risk Management Division becomes of a division within the CEO Department;
4.A new Communications and Marketing Division to be created within the CEO Department;
5.The Central Services Section becomes a section within the Communications, Marketing and Community Affairs Division of the CEO Department;
6.The Housing and Community Development Division become a Division of the Development Services Department;
7.Eliminate the current vacant positions of Administrative Services Director, Human Resources Administrator - Risk Management, and Budget and Research Officer;
8.Reclassify the following existing positions:
a.Finance Director to Finance and Information Technology Director
b.Human Resources Administrator in Human Resources to Human Resources Manager
c.Human Resources Analyst in Risk Management to Principal Human Resources Analyst in Risk Management; and
9.Create and fund the following new positions:
a.Public Affairs Manager - Communications and Marketing in the CEO Department
b.Public Affairs Manager – Community Affairs and Special Events in the CEO Department
c.Budget Analyst in the Finance Department
d.Executive Secretary (Confidential) - City Council Office to support workload and communications of five City Council members
e.Executive Secretary (Confidential) - the CEO Department to support the workload of the Assistant CEO, Communication & Marketing staff, Community Affairs and Special Events staff, Management Analyst and support for City Attorney’s Office
Certainly, we don't disagree with re-organizing to make operations more efficient and productive. However, it looks to me like there are going to be some permanent positions created for consultants - the two Public Affairs Managers slots, for example, for Bill Lobdell and Dan Joyce. Lobdell tells me that these positions will be actively recruited... OK, if you say so, Bill.
LATE NIGHT SNEAK ATTACKS
All that happens before council member comments - a time at the end when surprises are sprung on an unsuspecting public. You will recall Eric Bever's question for the staff at the last meeting, when he requested them to investigate how a single council member could be prohibited from placing an item on the agenda - a clear attempt to further marginalize Wendy Leece's presence. You may recall that he might have spilled the beans about possible Brown Act violations when he brought the issue up, indicating that he tried to confirm an interest with "at least one other" council member before placing an item on the agenda.
THIS WEEK'S UP TO YOU
You all are on your own at this council meeting. A little surgical procedure will keep me from attending and, in fact, might prohibit me from even observing on television. So, pay attention... it's your city they are trying to destroy.