Payout doesn't affect budget

COSTA MESA — Ears perked up last month when city officials mentioned during a City Council budget study session that Costa Mesa had made a $6 million settlement related to a car crash.

Residents, workers and the usual council critics wondered when the settlement was reached, who was involved, and why they hadn't heard about it.

Critics claimed the city was spending money while it looked to lay off workers, a claim the city rebutted earlier this week.

The settlement, it turns out, was reached more than a year ago and didn't affect this year's budget. In April 2010, the city agreed to pay the family of former Orange Coast College tennis coach Glenn Morton $1.7 million related to a 2005 crash on Adams Avenue near Huntington Beach.

An eastbound car got into a wreck on Adams and was pushed into the westbound lanes, where it smashed head-on into Morton's van. Morton was paralyzed.

A civil court jury in 2008 found Costa Mesa liable because it didn't have any medians or islands between the east-and westbound lanes, ordering the city to pay Morton $7.2 million.

The city appealed and last year reached the $1.7 million figure. The money came out of the city's self-insurance fund, which is about $2 million. Costa Mesa's insurance company paid an additional $2 million. The other driver involved also settled with the Morton family.

The issue was mentioned at the May 31 budget study session to explain why the city sets aside $2 million annually to cover itself on top of its insurance carrier. The total also keeps the city's premiums to its carrier lower, Bobby Young, a budget and research officer said at the meeting.

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