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ORANGE : City to Push Plan for Investment Panel

Mayor Joanne Coontz told residents this week that the city will move “expeditiously” to form a Citizens’ Investment Advisory Committee. A proposal to form the panel was approved by the City Council in October.

Formation of the committee is a step toward administrative procedures to reduce the city’s exposure to debacles such as Orange County’s bankruptcy.

The city had $28 million invested in the county pool when it was frozen by the bankruptcy. City Manager David F. Dixon said that about $8 million may be lost or unreachable.

Council members spent nearly two hours Tuesday explaining to residents why the city did not carry out a decision made in May to reduce its investment in the county pool from $33 million to $20 million.

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Minutes from the council’s May 10 meeting show that a committee--which included the city manager, finance director and city treasurer--advised the city to reduce its participation in the pool because the county was leveraging its investments.

Residents should be criticizing the county treasurer, not the City Council, said Michael B. Jeffers, an Irvine securities attorney and consultant for for the city. He had earlier blamed city officials for the investment problems.

“The city clearly was authorized, both by government code and by its own investment strategy, to invest in the pool,” he said. “The city did believe it could rely on the county treasurer’s impressive track record and continued oral and written reports that the pool’s leveraged investment strategy was a safe one.”

The council agreed to begin processing resumes for the three-member investment oversight committee, and to consider a ballot initiative to make the city treasurer an appointed post and devise procedures to “deputize” employees to act on behalf of the treasurer.

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The council will meet Tuesday at 4 p.m. for a mid-year budget review to discuss possible delays in public projects.


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