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Special Report: 60th party cost nearly $400,000, documents show

City Council payments offer glimpse into unreleased finances. Spokesman puts revenue-income shortfall at about $79,000.

December 23, 2013|By Jeremiah Dobruck

Costa Mesa's 60th anniversary celebration has so far cost close to $400,000, significantly more than the initial $315,000 estimate to produce the event, according to a year's worth of public records reviewed by the Daily Pilot.

The total cost — before revenue — appears to be nearly triple the $125,000 the City Council authorized in public funds for the three-day, summertime party. But the event also produced income in the form of ticket and concession sales, sponsorships and outside grants, so the true cost to taxpayers will probably remain unclear until an expected city audit is released early next year.

Between March and December, the city paid out nearly $400,000 for insurance, rentals, musical acts and numerous other expenses for the June 28 to 30 celebration, according to council documents known as "warrant resolutions."

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To get a picture of the event's price tag, the Pilot reviewed 12 months of those expenditures listed in council agendas. The documents list the city's purchases and are approved by a single vote at each council meeting as part of the consent calendar, which usually comprises routine items.

By compiling expenses with line items explicitly related to the 60th anniversary, the Pilot determined the city has paid out slightly more than $391,000 since March. Among the payments were $3,000 for a cake and $18,000 for fireworks.

Councilwoman Wendy Leece, who attended most of the 60th planning committee meetings, expressed shock when she heard the $400,000 estimate.

"I think it just got out of control," she said, specifically citing the music festival aspect, which featured about two dozen acts. "It grew too big."

The councilwoman said she has requested certain contracts and documents related to the celebration but was rebuffed.

Leece said she'll withhold a final opinion until she sees all the facts, including a total cost.

"It would be premature for me to judge the thing now," she said.

More bills could be on the way. As recently as Dec. 3, the council approved a $1,840 payment for security at the celebration. In addition, because the city has so far denied a Daily Pilot public records request for more information about the event, a complete picture of the total expenses cannot yet be drawn.

However, Costa Mesa spokesman Bill Lobdell said in a statement emailed on behalf of the city Friday that the independent audit into the 60th anniversary celebration will soon be released.

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