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City manager's move still ongoing

Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff plans to move to town soon to a home partially financed with city funds.

September 07, 2010|By Mike Reicher, mike.reicher@latimes.com
  • Dave Kiff, the city manager of Newport Beach, co-owns this house with the city of Newport Beach.
Dave Kiff, the city manager of Newport Beach, co-owns… (KENT TREPTOW, Daily…)

It's not often that municipal employees go out of their way to publicize their salaries. So when Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff wrote an open letter Aug. 4 explaining what he and the City Council earn, Daily Pilot editors were happy to publish it.

Curious residents now understood more about their public servants' compensation in the wake of the Bell salary scandal. And as some of those residents surely did, the Pilot also clicked the links in the letter and examined the budgets to confirm the figures.

All the numbers appeared to check out. But one incentive in Kiff's letter didn't have a dollar amount next to it — his home.

In follow-up interviews, Kiff and other city officials provided the details.

Based on the city's agreement with Kiff, Newport Beach paid $471,250 in September 2009 to help Kiff move within the city limits. While experts say it's likely a safe investment — Kiff has to pay the city if he sells the home or if he and the city part ways — the outlay came at a time of tight economic times.

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Less than one month after the sale closed on the house, Kiff announced that the city faced an $8-million budget deficit.

Essentially, the city paid for about half of Kiff's $935,000 home near the west bluff of the Upper Newport Bay. He has lived in Laguna Beach for more than 14 years, and once he was promoted to city manager, the City Council wanted him to move to Newport.

"If I had had my druthers, I wouldn't have had to move," Kiff said in an interview. "But I didn't want to be the first city manager who didn't move to Newport Beach."

The city charter stipulates that the city manager has to live in town. But California law says municipalities cannot force employees to live within their city boundaries, so the city couldn't legally enforce the rule. This fall Newport voters will decide on a measure to amend the charter to reflect the current law.

In the meantime, council members wanted their manager nearby. They were willing to pay for it.

"I think it's important to be part of the fabric of the community," said Mayor Keith Curry, "and you don't get that as a commuter."

Councilman Mike Henn said he thought it important for Kiff to be "fully immersed in the culture" and "issues" of Newport Beach.

Kiff had been assistant city manager for 11 years prior to his promotion in September 2009.

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