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Newport Beach finance committee to keep its makeup the same

The composition of the Newport Beach Finance Committee will stay as-is.

Councilman Scott Peotter had asked to change the committee from a mix of three council members and four citizens to a seven-person, all-citizen body, arguing that it would put all members on even footing without council members getting deference from the city staff that works with the committee.

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“I think that the council will be better off having a full citizen committee, and I think that we will be blessed by the fact that we’ve got the kind of citizens that have the knowledge in finance that we do,” he told the council Tuesday. “So we’ll have more input, not less input, from the citizenry in that kind of a makeup.”

However, the council voted 6-1, with Peotter the nay, to stick with the current format.

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Councilman Kevin Muldoon, who serves on the committee, said some of the body’s decisions have to be made by the people who are directly accountable to the citizens.

Councilwoman Diane Dixon, the committee’s chair, agreed. She said the public participation has enriched the entire group, and she doesn’t think there is any distinction between council members and citizen volunteers during discussions.

“We’re a committee of peers on that level,” she said. “However, having said that, as elected representatives in a representative form of government we have a fiduciary responsibility to protect the fiscal house of the city, and that is our responsibility to engage in managing the finances of the city.”

In 2015, Peotter and then-Mayor Ed Selich worked to modify the finance committee to its current structure. Council members who do not serve on the committee nominate representatives.

Previously, the committee was a three-person body comprised solely of council members who were appointed by the mayor.

The group, which is advisory in nature, discusses reserve, debt and investment policies; reviews the proposed budget, long-range financial forecast, rates and fees, audits; and offers pension strategies.

Carl Cassidy, a regular attendee at committee meetings, supported Peotter’s proposal, saying the citizen members give excellent input.

“Do we get the same just because the council decides to go and do the job themselves? Do you paint your own house? Do you do your own plumbing?”

The city has about 10 active commissions, committees and boards. Most are all-citizen, although the water quality, aviation and Balboa Village committees also have a mix.

Councilman Jeff Herdman, who serves on the aviation and water quality committees, said he respects that Dixon, Muldoon and Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill have developed an expertise in city finance.

“I think they have confidence in me, as I do in them representing me and serving on the finance committee,” he said. “They’ve expressed their confidence in me as far as my involvement with airport issues. It’s a good balance.”

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