City deconstructs 60th anniversary party

One committee member calls the handling of its finances 'an epic fail.' City CEO says staff learned from the mistakes.

April 10, 2014|By Bradley Zint

During an occasionally tense three-hour meeting Wednesday, members of the 60th Anniversary Planning Committee, Costa Mesa residents and other interested parties sounded off about what went right, what went wrong and what remains unresolved about the city's bash last summer.

The "60 & Fabulous" event June 28 to 30, celebrating the city's six decades of existence, was marked by bloated costs — about $518,000 — repeated failures to follow city purchasing procedures and the need for a personnel investigation.

"We're not going to be able to resolve all of your concerns tonight," 60th committee Chairman Mike Scheafer acknowledged at the outset of the meeting, which took place inside a packed Emergency Operations Center, adjacent to City Hall.


It was the group's first session since July 11, when some of the party's behind-the-scenes struggles first became public.

Scheafer added that there are certainly positive takeaways, despite the tensions that have "festered" in the many months since.

"I think we [immediately] walked away from it thinking it was a great thing for the city of Costa Mesa," he said.

City CEO Tom Hatch acknowledged significant breakdowns at City Hall when it came to bringing the 60th anniversary party to fruition.

"Unanticipated costs" were among those shortcomings, he said, as well as several violations of city purchasing policies.

Hatch echoed much of what city officials first revealed in January, when, after months of withholding documents, more than 1,000 pages related to the event were released.

The investigation included an independent analysis of revenues and expenditures, an independent personnel investigation, a criminal investigation and a review of city procedures. Many of the findings have been forwarded to the Orange County district attorney's office for review of possible municipal code violations.

About a month after the June party, Hatch publicly called for an independent forensic audit. It never rose to such a level, Hatch said in January, because no money was found to be missing or used for personal gain.

"There was value that occurred for the overspending," including the hiring of additional bands to perform, Hatch said during Wednesday's meeting.

"I take responsibility for the shortcomings on our administrative aspects, and I am sorry that those occurred," Hatch added.

Hatch said he was aware of the event's "challenges" closer to its kickoff, though the cost overruns were not apparent until about a month after.

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