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Sounding Off:

Kiff is in position to effect change

August 25, 2009|By Humberto Caspa

The so-called jewel of Orange County might not want to recognize it, but elected officials in Newport Beach have decided to clean up their messy house before it got too dirty.

City Manager Homer Bludau is retiring earlier than expected, and officials are bringing new blood — sort of — to City Hall. Assistant City Manager Dave Kiff is getting promoted.

Kiff has shown hard work since he got his assistant city manager assignment in 1998, but can he do the big job: help provide a major systemic overhaul in the Police Department, and in his office?

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Such changes usually don’t happen from someone coming from the inside, but rather from the outside. The Los Angeles Police Department offers a great example. A new chief of police, William Bratton, was brought in to clean up a corrupt department. After a few years, not only did he get rid of the bad weed, but he also restructured the system.

As we know, Bludau didn’t trigger the problem. The problem developed inside the Newport Beach Police Department, where a police sergeant, Neil Harvey, sued the city because he felt an unfair system was working against him. Harvey had been in the department for 27 years, and despite doing an outstanding job, building a strong academic background and scoring high in promotion exams, he couldn’t be a lieutenant. He got snubbed many times. Some in the department felt he was gay.

In the end, an Orange County jury awarded Harvey $1.2 million in damages. However, to this day, his promotion is still in the air.

Bludau got in the mud after newspapers reported that he had promoted Police Chief John Klein illegally, bypassing the City Council’s consent and violating just about every transparent process for hiring a high-ranking official.

Did anyone know about the ongoing problems hanging in the Police Department? Administrative officials, including Kiff, will say no. However, most of them were no doubt fully aware of the rules. It took a brave sergeant to bring it to the public eye.

Has the City Council made a mistake by appointing an insider? Time will tell. In the meantime, Kiff has all the advantages to make all necessary changes to reshape a system where discrimination has no place.


HUMBERTO CASPA is a Costa Mesa resident.

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