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City: Reforms are on the way following 60th investigation

Reaction from Costa Mesa officials is strong in aftermath of '60 & Fabulous' party, which went far over budget. 'It's embarrassing,' says councilwoman Wendy Leece.

February 01, 2014|By Bradley Zint
  • Jack Hammett, former Costa Mesa mayor, cuts cake with current Mayor Jim Righeimer and Councilwoman Wendy Leece at the city's 60th anniversary celebration in late June.
Jack Hammett, former Costa Mesa mayor, cuts cake with… (Brittany Woolsey,…)

For the city of Costa Mesa's part, the investigation into what went wrong during its 60th anniversary celebration last summer seems to be over, but for others, it's gaining new momentum and renewed interest.

Citing the matter as an ongoing and confidential investigation, for months City Hall denied requests to release nearly all documents related to the three-day "60 & Fabulous" party aimed at celebrating Costa Mesa's community spirit, history and heritage.

On Thursday, those requests were granted, albeit late, with the release of more than 1,000 pages of contracts, invoices and other matters concerning the celebration.

The take away from the city? Indeed, city policies and procedures weren't followed, the 60th festivities went far over budget, city coffers paid the $84,000 shortfall for a party whose total cost was $518,000, and reforms are on the way.

Furthermore, as a matter of routine, the report was forwarded to the Orange County district attorney's office because of possible municipal code violations.

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On Friday, however, members the City Council and other stakeholders expressed both frustration and skepticism, saying they'll be looking over the documents closely in the coming weeks to see what they find for themselves.

"I think it's up to the public still to ask the hard questions," said Councilwoman Wendy Leece.

Unfortunately, Leece added, the 60th party "really grew into something that was never envisioned by the committee. It cost a lot more, and for that I apologize and take responsibility. Everything should always be driven by the budget, and this shows that exceptions were made.

"It's embarrassing."

City CEO Tom Hatch has a different view of the matter. Earlier this week, he and other city officials told the Daily Pilot about the various wrongdoings surrounding the June 28-30 celebration — lack of competitive bidding for some contracts, missing purchase orders, a serious time crunch to get things done — but that there are positive aspects that came out during the event and after it.

"The 60th will be remembered as a fabulous celebration that united us in love for our community and our eclectic spirit," Hatch said. "I will never forget the positive feeling of walking down Fair Drive and seeing thousands of friends and neighbors sharing our local art, food, music, history and culture. The event was so successful due to the hard work of so many volunteers, community partners, as well as city leaders and employees."

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