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Charter summary changes OK'd in heated meeting

Council candidate John Stephens and others challenge the process but city attorney assures the required edits were minor in nature. Leece dissents in 4-1 vote.

August 09, 2012|By Joseph Serna

The Costa Mesa City Council on Thursday approved several last-minute edits to its description of a proposed charter scheduled to go on the general election ballot.

Special Counsel to the City Kimberly Hall Barlow said the changes were minor in nature and more accurately reflect the final version of the proposed city constitution that residents will vote on in November.

"I apologize that we even have to have this meeting," she said.


FOR THE RECORD:
An earlier headline on this story incorrectly said that changes were made to the charter. Changes were only made to the description of the proposed charter.

Residents opposed to the charter and who support a slate of council candidates running in November, argued otherwise.

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The critics pointed to one specific change to the city's description of the charter: the newest version deleted language that the charter permits no-bid contracts in certain cases.

Instead, the new description approved in a 4-1 vote, with Councilwoman Wendy Leece dissenting, states that the city may use its own workforce for public works projects based on enumerated criteria.

The difference is only in language, not in meaning, officials said.

According to the city's current laws, Costa Mesa has to initiate an informal bidding process for public projects that cost between $5,000 and $175,000, though it could still opt to use its own workers.

Anything above that ceiling, Costa Mesa has to go through a formal, public bidding process. However, the charter would allow a council to set its own ceiling.

The city would also have more leeway on when it can use its own employees without initiating an informal bidding process for less costly work.

Attorney John Stephens, who is running for one of three open seats on the council, accused the city of purposely taking out the "no-bid" language because it was specifically addressed in the formal ballot argument opposing the charter.

The charter arguments were submitted Tuesday, the meeting to approve the charter edits was called Wednesday.

"You're covering up a bad fact," Stephens said. "The bad fact is no-bid contracts."

Barlow denied the assertion.

"The changes that I made to this exhibit are from the city attorney's office," she said. "They had nothing to do with the arguments. I haven't seen the arguments."

joseph.serna@latimes.com

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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