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60th anniversary documents released

The anniversary celebration cost Costa Mesa tens of thousands over what it budgeted, but no spending improprieties have been found.

January 30, 2014|By Bradley Zint

Citing cost overruns and apparent disregard for procedures, Costa Mesa officials said Thursday that the city's 60th anniversary party last summer ended up about $84,000 in the hole.

The three-day "60 & Fabulous" celebration cost some $518,000 — significantly more than the initial $315,000 estimate — and generated far less income than organizers had projected.

Of that final figure, the city's cost was $209,000, which includes paying the $84,000 overage and is more than the $125,000 the City Council originally allotted for the party.

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The Costa Mesa Conference and Visitor Bureau, a marketing agency independent of City Hall but funded by hotel tax revenue, chipped in the largest chunk of cash: $232,000.

The event generated $78,000 in revenue, including sponsorships, ticket sales and merchandise sales.

The new total is about $100,000 higher than the estimate reported in an earlier Daily Pilot investigation, which in December reviewed more than a year's worth of expenditures approved by the council toward the 60th anniversary festivities.

Officials on Thursday said the anniversary party had been virtually paid off, and all the money is accounted for.

"The multiple investigations have found no evidence to date that public funds were used for personal gain or were unaccounted [for]," the executive summary reported. "However, purchasing policies and procedures were not adhered to in many cases."

Many of the findings, however, were forwarded to the Orange County district attorney for review.

On Thursday afternoon, after several months of withholding documents and denying public records requests from the Pilot and concerned citizens, officials released more than 1,000 pages — a tiny fraction of which had been redacted — related to the planning, finances, contracts and other matters concerning the party.

In an interview with the Pilot, city officials said almost 20 people, both inside City Hall and outside, were involved in the roughly $45,000 independent investigation into the festival. That figure, they noted, did not include staff time and police costs.

City CEO Tom Hatch called the city's six-month anniversary review the most comprehensive and thorough of any in recent memory.

It involved a financial audit, an independent analysis of revenues and expenditures, an independent personnel investigation, a criminal investigation and some reviewing of Costa Mesa's purchasing policies and procedures, according to the report's executive summary.

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