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Community Commentary: Don't believe City Hall's spin on finances

October 22, 2011|By Jennifer Muir

In March, when the City Council majority decided to send layoff notices to nearly half the workforce, they told the public that they had no choice and that the city was on the brink of insolvency. The councilmen's budget projections changed depending on the point they wanted to make each day.

So the Costa Mesa City Employees Assn. agreed to hire Harvey M. Rose and Associates, one of the state's most reputable public accountancy firms, to give the public a clear and reliable picture of the city's financial position.

What was found was that the city was nowhere near bankruptcy and that, in fact, its financial position was relatively healthy compared to other cities.

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The review identified $26 million available to Costa Mesa's general fund that was conveniently missing from City Council's political narrative to justify outsourcing city services. The report did not provide recommendations; it laid out options that had not been considered as part of the public dialogue.

Now, nearly eight months later, the city has not outsourced any services, it has spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on expensive lawyers and no-bid contracts, and the sky hasn't fallen. So it looks like the report was accurate, and the city was not on the brink of insolvency after all.

The city's response to the audit is so full of misstatements and misrepresentations that it obviously just spin to serve the City Council's political agenda.

So I'll ask you to decide for yourself who would you believe: A reputable firm with decades of experience in public finance, or a group of rookie politicians who have already caused so much damage to the community?

JENNIFER MUIR is the communications director for the Orange County Employees Assn.

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