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Newport council could trim legal staff

City attorney hopes the cuts could save the city budget between $170,000 to $190,000 annually.

October 24, 2011|By Mike Reicher

The Newport Beach city attorney's office may continue its staffing shake-up Tuesday, when the City Council votes on eliminating three of nine positions.

By outsourcing one deputy city attorney and eliminating two vacant administrative positions, City Attorney Aaron Harp hopes to save $170,000 to $190,000 annually. Those savings account for the hiring of one legal secretary as well.

The city attorney's office budget swelled in recent years under the leadership of David Hunt, who left the city in September.

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Deputy City Attorney Cathy Wolcott would lose her position if the council approves the measure, but she would remain on contract to assist with group rehabilitation home litigation and other issues if necessary, Harp said.

Earlier this month, Harp canceled a similar contract with Hunt after the former city attorney was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.

In other matters, former Mayor Tod Ridgeway will be back before the council to appeal another proposed retail and restaurant development that the Planning Commission rejected.

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Commercial project on MacArthur

In a 4-3 vote, the commission denied Ridgeway's proposal in September for a commercial center along MacArthur Boulevard, near Von Karman Avenue. The commission cited its lack of parking, problems with landscaping, and a driveway on MacArthur. Today, cars can access retail and restaurant centers there through back streets, instead of driveways on the boulevard itself.

The roughly 12,300-square-foot project would replace the former Code Restaurant and Lounge at 4221 Dolphin-Striker Way with a takeout restaurant, sit-down restaurant, bank and retail stores.

Ridgeway changed his proposal to respond to some, but not all, of the commission's concerns. He left the driveway plans intact, for instance.

Councilman Rush Hill called for the appeal because "it's a perfect example of an underperforming area," he said. "I was rather upset believing that our Planning Commission was out of step with the council's goals and policies."

Code closed in 2010; the site has turned over many times in recent years.

In a similar situation, the council approved Ridgeway's Mariner's Pointe development in August after the commission denied it.

The regular meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 3300 Newport Blvd. There will be no afternoon study session.

mike.reicher@latimes.com

Twitter: @mreicher

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