Newport survey respondents say they want the next city manager to be like the departing city manager

Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff plans to leave in August after 20 years with the city and nine as its top administrative official.
(File Photo)

Many people who responded to an online survey on the attributes they’d like to see in Newport Beach’s next city manager said they want someone a lot like the current city manager, Dave Kiff, who plans to leave this summer.

Those who took the anonymous survey, which collected 361 responses, were asked to name their top five priorities among 12 suggested local issues and the top three personal attributes among six suggested for the new city manager. “Other” was an option in both categories.

The survey could be taken more than once while it was available for about two weeks through Friday.

For attributes, respondents most often selected “collaborative style, both inside City Hall and with the public,” followed by “strong manager of people and resources” and “strong financial understanding.”

The top priorities, in descending order, were development, traffic and roads, John Wayne Airport, city services and public safety.

In the “other” fields, many respondents specified that they want less development, especially the high-density kind, or they added subjects such as fiscal conservativism, parking and affordable housing.

Many praised Kiff or criticized the City Council — or both.

Kiff plans to leave in August after 20 years at City Hall, including nine as city manager, Newport’s top administrative official. His previous contract was set to expire in April 2019, but this spring he announced he would be leaving this year.

The council unanimously approved an amendment to his contract allowing the August exit, plus a package in which the city will pay more than $100,000 upon Kiff’s resignation. That will cover what Kiff would have earned in salary in September through December, along with a one-time deferred-compensation contribution, any unused administrative-leave pay for the year and fees Kiff incurred while having a lawyer help prepare the agreement.

Kiff’s accelerated exit and the payout have sparked persistent allegations from some of his supporters that council members Kevin Muldoon, Scott Peotter, Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill and Mayor Marshall Duffield conspired to force Kiff out early. The four have denied that.

Many survey respondents called for transparency, honesty and trustworthiness. A couple sought a new manager who is “not a Gang of Four stooge,” a reference to the four council members.

Some went after them harder:

“Who would have thought that we would even have to have this survey? We had the best city manager in California and these guys [expletive] it up.”

“Yo, dudes, who the hell do you think you are screwing our city like this? If Kiff had stayed until 2019, don’t you think it would have been a hell of a lot easier to replace him? Who the hell is going to want to come now after what you did?”

“The Gang of 4 has brought this all down upon us. We had a spectacular city manager and you had the boneheaded idea of getting rid of him. I will personally never forgive you for that, especially in November [when Muldoon, Peotter and Duffield are up for reelection]. Just plain idiotic.”

Others simply complimented Kiff:

“Can you clone Dave Kiff?”

“Don’t let Dave go!”

“This city had an excellent city manager in Dave Kiff … smart, involved, direct, reasonable, confident. Please look for those attributes.”

“Dave Kiff is an exemplary city manager. I would suggest finding someone like him. He will be missed.”

The City Council selected an executive search firm, Roberts Consulting Group of Rancho Mirage, in April to help recruit a new manager. The firm will spend about three months on the process, gathering background information, developing a brochure and a list of potential candidates, placing ads, reviewing resumés, references and background checks, conducting preliminary and more advanced interviews and helping with negotiations.

Survey results

Top desired city manager attributes and their number of votes

Collaborative style, both inside City Hall and with the public: 257

Strong manager of people and resources: 245

Strong financial understanding: 218

Community involvement and presence: 176

Excellent communicator: 130

Other: 53

Top local issues and their number of votes

Development: 265

Traffic and roads: 254

John Wayne Airport: 248

City services: 191

Public safety: 187

Unfunded pension liability: 159

Harbor and water quality: 142

Homelessness: 117

Sea level rise and flooding: 84

Other: 55

Arts and culture: 52

Senior, disabled and youth services: 51

Source: City of Newport Beach

Twitter: @Daily_PilotHD