Newport proposes City Of Bell-like policies

In a shockingly overt move, an ordinance is being proposed which would allow the City Manager to create and commit to agreements created without the consent of the city council– and the city council is set to vote on it tonight.

In a very odd case of presentation, the proposal does not include copies of the existing policies– which it is supposedly “integrating” into.

In another oddity, this proposal– having to do with nothing but finances– was never even reviewed by the Finance Committee.

According to our very even-keeled activist Jim Mosher, “Those policies are “F-5” for goods and materials, and “F-14” for services, and they can be found here:

Both give the City Manager the authority to award, on his own, contracts for up to $120,000 (and department heads up to $75,000), presumably assuming money for the material or service has been allocated by the Council in the budget. The City Attorney, who likely wrote the most recent version of the policy and is independent of the City Manager, gave himself essentially unlimited authority to write, review and award contracts, without oversight, although he is supposed to eventually let the Council know if he goes over $120,000.”


In 2011, after Measure EE, it went from $50,000 to $120,000, and had been $30,000 from 1987-2006— prior to that, it was $5,000.

For reference, $5,000 in 1987 dollars is worth $10,702.48 today, meaning that our City Manager’s financial limit is increasing at about 12x the rate of inflation.  That is something to be very concerned about.

There is absolutely no reason that the City Manager needs to be making $120k contracts out of thin air without the approval of council.  If you want to know the reasons why that doesn’t make sense, I will be happy to provide them for a one-time payment of $119,000 for one days worth of work– but it may take me several days to provide you with an answer, so prepare to engage in multiple contractual agreements.

Don’t like this?  TELL THEM!  Write — it is the only item on the agenda tomorrow, so they will be listening for the public’s feedback!

I just wrote this letter to the council and the city manager:


Until 1986, the limit on city manager contracts without council approval was merely $5,000.

$5k in 1986 dollars today is just under $11k.  What is being proposed is an increase from that at about 12x the rate of inflation.

I understand the need to renew contracts– that can be done with an evergreen clause in the contracts.  If there are new vendors for old contracts or new services being added, those should be vetted by council, as that is virtually the entire job of council.

We do not have a need for a lot of NEW services here in Newport, so there should not be a crippling need for the City Manager to have this kind of authority.  While I do not believe that Dave Kiff himself is going to start handing out contracts willy-nilly, what you are voting on is a permanent ordinance which will be in play for long after all of you are in office and long after Dave retires.

(Dave: On the off-hand chance that I’m wrong and you intend to be handing out $120k contracts all willy-nilly like, you’ve got my number!  I do landscaping, job placement services, house cleaning, astronaut training, road painting, research for cold fusion solutions, aqueduct repairs, ship building, sea wall consulting, shoe repair, executive hair cutting, office supply vending, and offer general consulting services for all cities within the Newport Beach city limits.  I also build great inauthentic sombreros for use in municipal events.  Oh, and software too.)

It is the duty of council to vet new services in both contracts and vendors and to protect taxpayer money.  This ordinance is going in the opposite direction.



About Mike Glenn

Mike is the founder and publisher of Save Newport and Chair of Government Relations for the Elks Lodge. He writes, shoots photos, and edits, but much of the time, he's just "the IT guy". He can be reached at: Google+, Facebook, or via email, at