Thursday, March 06, 2014

60th Anniversary Controversy Continues To Fester(Amended)***

Like a wound that just won't heal, the controversy surrounding the Costa Mesa 60th Anniversary Celebration costs continues to ooze.  This week members of the "real media" reached out and tore the scab off.

Earlier in the week Antonie Boessenkool of the Orange County Register published two articles, the first of which appeared to be outside that darn pay wall.  I'm not sure about the companion piece.  The first one, HERE, titled, "How Costa Mesa costs soared for 60th birthday party" and goes to great lengths to address the history of the huge cost overruns associated with the celebration early last summer.  She addresses the various vendors involved, the fact that the cost of the three-day party was more than a half-million dollars and quantifies many of the relevant statistics.

The companion piece, HERE, titled "Costa Mesa foot bill for 60th anniversary bands' Jack Daniels, munchies", goes into great detail on just what kind of stuff was demanded by the musical groups contracted to perform at the celebration.  Eric Burdon, for example, demanded that his hotel room be stocked with very specific water, wine, tea and cheeses.  His demands for his dressing room were even greater, requiring specific kinds of chocolate, tea, black socks and Paul Mitchell Firm Dry Wax hair product.  Yikes!  Other artists made similar demands.

Boessenkool did a terrific job of presenting some pretty darn painful statistics and the timeline of how the City managed to overspend all that tax money on an event that apparently had a miserable turnout for the entertainment.

Then, today Barbara Venezia returns to the Daily Pilot with HER take on the 60th in her column titled, "Nothing adds up in 60th debacle", HERE.  Venezia is much less patient in her piece, asking the tough questions about just what the heck happened as the planning for this event unfolded and, later, when the bills came due.

She spoke with both CEO Tom Hatch and his Assistant CEO, Rick Francis, about this issue.  I got the impression from her observations that she's not very satisfied with their replies.  Take some time and read through her column.  I guarantee that it will make you more than a little angry.

We are now past the anniversary of when this ill-advised brainstorm was hatched (no pun intended) by Mayor Jim Righiemer as a bit of self-agrandizement to distract residents from all the other crap going on in the city at the time.  There has been a report issued that didn't come close to answering many of the questions being asked throughout the community.  Residents want to know how more than $500,000 of our tax dollars got spent on that, to use the word from Venezia's title, debacle.  People want to know if what happened was a result of incompetence or conspiracy - or both.

We're told that there was NO buyer in place during this time - only a part-time clerk with limited experience who was expected to process bills.  Following publication of this entry I'm advised that there was, indeed, a buyer in place during this time period.  I'm also advised that when that person pushed back, demanding that proper procedures be followed, he was bypassed and the bills were approved by a "higher authority".  The uncertainty of what happened that resulted in Public Affairs Manager Dan Joyce being placed on administrative leave - where he remains to this day, getting paid to do nothing - only adds to the suspicions throughout the community.  We know bills were paid without proper approvals.  We know the Conference and Visitors Bureau - which seems to function very much like a slush fund for the mayor - covered many of the overages.  That fact is kind of just waved off when questions arise, although our tax dollars funds the CVB.

We are eight months downstream from the event and there STILL has not been any kind of "after action report".  The cadre of volunteers who worked long and hard to try to make the event a success have been crying for a chance to discuss what went right - and wrong - during the event so we can learn from our mistakes.  The longer it takes for that meeting to take place the angrier and more frustrated those folks are becoming.

This falls squarely in the lap of CEO Hatch.  It's his responsibility and, in my view, he has failed miserably in fulfilling that responsibility.  He needs to get this mess behind us.  He needs to step up, convene the volunteers and let them tell their stories - no matter how long it takes.  The longer he waits, the more it looks like a cover-up.

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Anonymous Arthur Nern said...

Let's hope that the same feds investigating Roland Barrera re the alleged Ponzi scheme are also including his connection with the 60th event in their investigation.

Maybe the feds investigating the damage at Fairview Park can talk to those feds and work together.

It's ironic that the Rig-Bots blame "Sacramento" for all of Costa Mesa's problems, when during their leader's reign we seem to need one federal investigation after another.

Next we'll be hearing about some scheme to "free us from Washington.."

3/07/2014 06:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

Kind of unrelated, but loved the Tea Party's comment about Foley's entry into the race, 'just another career politician.' So now we know the attack plan. That said, if she's the only one in the race against Righeimer, Ramos and Capitelli, the majority will still exist. Any other candidates getting ready to enter the race? If not, the majority will continue running roughshod.

3/07/2014 07:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Anna Vrska said...

Mike, last week I was introduced to Tony Capitelli, and yesterday we met to discuss Fairview Park and field usage. We also touched on numerous other topics including the homeless, the police department, transparency, unfunded pension liability, the recent slew of high density developments, his vision for Costa Mesa, public comments during Council meetings ... I didn't shy from tough questions.

I liked what I heard. I liked what he said and how he said it. I will continue to do my homework, but am of the belief that Tony very much has a mind of his own and just may be the breath of fresh air that Costa Mesa needs.

3/07/2014 09:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

Good to know, Anna. Thanks. I will do the same.

Maybe you should consider it yourself!

3/07/2014 09:58:00 AM  
Blogger Marquis said...

Capitelli works for Dana Rorabacher, the Louie Gohmert of OC - a grotesque, embarrassing doofus with a track record of zero accomplishments.

Capitelli said for the record, ""I'm happy with the transparency, and I support the current council's efforts to revitalize Costa Mesa using budget restraints so we can improve infrastructure." Transparency and budget restraints - like the 60th fiasco, where neither are anywhere to be found?? Improving infrastructure by tearing down the Police Dept. and staff in general??

It is absolutely foolhardy to assume that a breath of fresh air might emanate from Rorabacher's office, the same slime pit that spawned our Righeimer infestation.

No, No, No - Capitelli is NOT the answer. Katrina will win a seat. Unless someone else not affiliated with Righeimer runs, we'll be right where we are now, even if Riggy himself finishes third. That would put Mensinger in charge, which may be even worse, if that's possible.

3/07/2014 11:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

A higher power? You mean God signed off on these expenditures? You don't mess with him, or so I'm told.

3/07/2014 12:55:00 PM  

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