Newport asks for opinions on next city manager and gets one (and only one)

Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff plans to leave in August. The city is seeking residents’ input on his successor.
(File Photo)

What if Newport Beach held a feedback session for residents to say what they’d like to see in the next city manager, and almost nobody came?

That’s what happened Tuesday afternoon.

Locals have taken a keen interest in the circumstances surrounding the impending departure of Dave Kiff, with commentators at every council meeting since late March providing warm praise for Kiff — while also offering often pointed, occasionally withering criticism toward a majority of the City Council, who many people, including some of the council minority, believe secretly forced Kiff out. He plans to leave in August after 20 years with the city and nine as its top administrative official. His previous employment contract expired in April 2019.

But Tuesday, only Newport government meeting fixture Jim Mosher stepped up to the podium to offer input on the experience, values and related qualifications of whoever will succeed Kiff.

Mosher said that aside from excellent management skills, he wants somebody who is straightforward and honest with “unquestioned integrity”; somebody who will follow the city charter, policies and laws, and who can acknowledge that the city can make mistakes.

“By integrity I mean that we would look for somebody who is candidly honest, and [by] candidly honest I mean somebody you can always trust that they’re telling you the truth,” Mosher said. “And being candid, meaning that they’re not shading the truth by leaving out something that might be important.”

An online survey asking residents to rank potential candidates’ personal styles and attributes, along with community issues, is at through May 18.

Brown Act letter

In a tangentially related item, the council affirmed a staff recommendation to send a “commitment letter” to say it will not violate the state open meetings law during the transition to a new city manager — even though the city flatly denies that such secret meetings ever took place.

In a complaint to the council April 10, resident Lauri Preedge leveled accusations of violations of the open meetings law, the Ralph M. Brown Act. Rather than issue an outright rejection of the allegations, which could leave room for Preedge or anyone else to file a lawsuit, Kiff and City Atty. Aaron Harp recommend the council issue the “commitment letter,” which does not admit fault and argues that the matter was properly included on the April 10 agenda under the title “City Manager Employment Agreement and Recruitment of New City Manager.”

The council voted 6-1, with Jeff Herdman dissenting, to send the letter.

Kiff’s supporters have accused council members Kevin Muldoon and Scott Peotter, Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill and Mayor Marshall “Duffy” Duffield of conspiring to force Kiff out. The four have denied the allegations.

Harbor speed limit

Racing sailors are closer to being able to officially go above 5 knots in Newport Harbor.

The council, with Duffield recusing himself because of his eponymous boat-building business along the harbor-facing Coast Highway, voted to pass along proposed exceptions to the 5-knot harbor speed limit for races and practices to the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways for review.

The city must consult the state before it can change the speed limit.

The Harbor Commission gave a thumbs-up to the speed exception, a longtime off-and-on issue, in April.

Twitter: @Daily_PilotHD