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IRVINE : City Leaders Grilled in Finance Crisis Forum

City leaders tried Tuesday night to deflect blame for Irvine’s aggressive participation in the failed county investment pool during the first public forum on the financial crisis.

But they failed to convince most of the residents who chastised the city for borrowing $64 million last July for an additional investment in the now-bankrupt county fund. About 130 residents filled council chambers where 20 residents spoke.

“The bankruptcy brought to light the city’s speculative borrowings,” said resident Gary Kingsbury, a former Democratic congressional candidate who has founded a local activist group in response to the county bankruptcy. “Let’s not blame the county for our irresponsibility.”

During a 45-minute presentation at the beginning of the forum, City Manager Paul O. Brady Jr. said it was the county, not the city, that acted irresponsibly.

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“The county never disclosed to us their very risky (investment) strategy,” Brady said, adding that state law assured the city there could be no loss of principal.

“The city used the taxable notes as a way to provide additional revenue to pay for important city needs,” Brady said, explaining that the city had engaged in the practice successfully since the early 1980s.

Former Irvine Mayor Sally Anne Sheridan backed city leaders, referring to critics as “the same cast of characters that come down here and rant and rail and are continually, negatively trying to pull things down.”

But Orange County Common Cause Chairman Bill Mitchell told the audience that city leaders should be held accountable for investment losses. “There’s no reason Mr. Brady should have a job in this city, based on performance,” Mitchell said.

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