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Costa Mesa leaders will consider hiring support staff to serve mayor, City Council

Costa Mesa leaders will consider hiring support staff to serve mayor, City Council
Costa Mesa Councilwoman Katrina Foley, top left, won the race to be the city’s first directly elected mayor. Andrea Marr, top right, Manuel Chavez, bottom left, and Arlis Reynolds secured the three other available City Council seats this year. (Courtesy photos)

Costa Mesa’s new City Council members will take their seats Tuesday, ushering a new slate of representatives into power after an at-times bruising campaign.

The elected representatives from council Districts 3, 4 and 5 — Andrea Marr, Manuel Chavez and Arlis Reynolds, respectively — will be sworn into office alongside Katrina Foley, the city’s first directly elected mayor.

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Their ascensions will officially expand the council’s ranks from five members to seven, as outlined in the city’s by-district election system, which went into effect this year.

Tuesday’s meeting is more than just an installation. One of the newly seated council’s first significant decisions will be deciding whether to retain Dave Kiff, who retired from his job as Newport Beach’s top administrator at the end of August, for “temporary transition assistance” in the wake of former city manager Tom Hatch’s departure.

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If approved, Kiff would provide his services at no cost to the city, according to a staff report. He also would be available to assist “in the nationwide recruitment for a new permanent city manager, which will begin as soon as possible.”

Kiff’s career in Newport Beach spanned 20 years, including nine as city manager. Since leaving, he has served as interim chief executive of the Assn. of California Cities-Orange County.

The proposed arrangement with Costa Mesa would be subject to approval by that body’s board of directors, according to the staff report.

In a letter dated Wednesday, Kiff emphasized he “would not be the acting or interim city manager in any way” and would instead work collaboratively with current acting City Manager Tammy Letourneau.

“This is an important time for Costa Mesa and, if I have a bit of capacity to help out, I am excited to do so,” he wrote in the letter to Letourneau.

The question of whether to retain Kiff is on the consent calendar Tuesday, so it won’t be discussed separately unless a resident, council member or staff asks.

An alternative would be to recruit someone to fill in as an interim city manager, though there would likely be a cost associated with that approach, according to the staff report.

Hatch officially left the city after the council voted 3-2 — with Foley and Councilman John Stephens opposed — to terminate his contract on Nov. 13. He had served as Costa Mesa’s head administrative employee since 2011.

New support staffing

Council members also are set to vote on whether to hire additional support staff for themselves.

Foley’s proposal is to replace a vacant tax auditing specialist job with a new full-time position — senior management analyst/chief of staff to the mayor and City Council — that would be “responsible for managing constituent services, legislative research and analysis, coordination with federal and state offices, special projects and ensuring the mayor and council members are fully briefed and prepared for council meetings, press events and community meetings,” according to an agenda report.

Under that chief of staff would be three part-time management aides hired to assist council members.

“I felt that the City Council, as a department at City Hall, has needed to have some support for responding to constituents and their needs — not only to be accountable, but to do a better job,” Foley said Friday.

She said that need will become more pressing with the expansion of the council’s membership.

“I think that this will relieve some of the burden on our executive staff so they can do the greater policy work — operations, budget, public works, etc.,” she said. “And it will free up time so that the council members can have an identified staffer who’s going to really be responsible for constituent services or responding to residents’ needs.”

Combined, these positions would carry an estimated total annual cost of $222,000. For the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends in June, the expected price tag would be $81,000 — including $20,000 in projected one-time spending on additional furniture to accommodate these positions in City Hall.

This fiscal year’s costs would be funded through a reduction in the city attorney’s budget, according to the agenda report.

Recognition for Righeimer

Tuesday’s meeting will be the last for Councilman Jim Righeimer, who was termed out of office this year. The Mesa Verde resident joined the council in 2010 after previously serving on the city’s Planning Commission. He was appointed mayor in December 2012 and held the title for two years.

The city will hold an official recognition for him during the meeting — which starts at 6 p.m. in the Costa Mesa Senior Center, 695 W. 19th St.

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