Long Beach development director demoted after scandal with lobbyist
The top development official for the city of Long Beach has been demoted after coming under scrutiny for going on junkets with a lobbyist with business before his office, officials announced Friday afternoon.
Director of Development Services Craig Beck has been reassigned as a manager of the Oil and Gas Department’s Business Operations Bureau. He will start the new post Monday, earning a salary of $140,000 a year -- a 20% pay cut -- said Debbie Mills, the city’s acting human resources director.
City Manager Pat West placed Beck on paid administrative leave Dec. 11 while the city attorney investigated trips he had taken with lobbyist Mike Murchison, including a discounted stay last month at a Napa hotel, saying that trip and others raised a “public trust issue.”
“This has been a very difficult decision that I do not take lightly,” West said Friday in a written statement. “This action is the right decision for the Long Beach community and the city organization, and allows us to get back to the business of making Long Beach a great city.”
West did not respond to phone calls seeking comment. The office of City Atty. Bob Shannon declined to comment, saying it was a confidential personnel matter.
In a written statement, Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster said, “Clearly, this was a difficult and painful decision for the city manager, but ultimately a very prudent one that moves toward restoring public confidence and staff morale.”
Beck, a 21-year city employee who spent just more than a year and a half as head of redevelopment, could not be reached for comment, but has told the Press-Telegram that he unknowingly received a discounted room from LodgeWorks and that he repaid the full amount when he returned home.
Murchison is a lobbyist for LodgeWorks, which owns the AVIA Napa Hotel where he and Beck stayed, and has been seeking approval through the city’s redevelopment office for a 125-room hotel in downtown Long Beach.
The disclosure that the city’s top gatekeeper for development had taken trips with a well-known City Hall lobbyist turned into a minor scandal over the last month in Los Angeles County’s second largest city.
Local media heavily scrutinized Beck’s relationship with Murchison, publishing e-mails between the two in which they discussed “comped” hotel rooms, drinking scotch, taking a limo to wineries and going to Angels games together.
“I feel you have my back and hope you know I have yours,” Beck wrote in a Nov. 19 e-mail to Murchison published in the Press-Telegram. “I do have a soul that needs feeding and I prefer devil’s food!”
Mills, the acting human resources head, would not comment on the reasons for Beck’s demotion or whether he will face any disciplinary actions, saying it is a confidential personnel matter.
“It is a reassignment to a different position in a different department,” Mills said.
Reginald Harrison, a deputy city manager, was named interim director of the Development Services Department while the city manager searches for a permanent replacement.
Start your day right
Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.