An agency that promotes tourism in Costa Mesa ended up footing the largest portion of the bill for the city’s 60th anniversary party — a sum that was nearly 10 times what the organization first agreed to pay.
The Costa Mesa Conference and Visitor Bureau initially agreed to chip in $25,000 to be a main sponsor of the event. That sum eventually grew to $232,000.
Paulette Lombardi-Fries, the bureau’s president, said that although the organization didn’t play a large role in planning the event, they were happy to have supported it — even as the event’s budget expanded.
“The city had seen that it grew to be bigger than what they had initially budgeted for,” she said. “We are a partner with the city ... and we assisted them with what we could.”
The bureau is a nonprofit marketing agency funded by hotel-tax revenue, but is independent from the city.
Lombardi-Fries said that the event’s primary organizer, Public Affairs Manager Dan Joyce, served as one of two city representatives on the bureau’s board when the event was in its planning stages in early 2013.
Joyce, she said, made a presentation about the event and asked the board for sponsorship. That’s when the board decided to cut the initial $25,000 check, Lombardi-Fries said.
The city approached the bureau about sharing some marketing costs as the event date approached, she said.
In July, the city touted the bureau’s $41,000 contribution to the event’s marketing campaign.
But the majority of the $232,000 wasn’t paid until later, according to Lombardi-Fries.
“The city, after the event, had come to the bureau and asked if we could assist them with paying some additional invoices for the event,” she said. “So that’s how that number grew to the number that you have.”
While she didn’t have exact figures available, she estimated that most of that went toward bands and fireworks.
Joyce has since been placed on paid administrative leave, and city CEO Tom Hatch has replaced him on the bureau’s board.
Still, Lombardi-Fries said, she didn’t anticipate that the findings of an independent investigation into the celebration’s funding released this week would affect future dealings with City Hall.
“Based on the statistics that were shown to us, it was a great weekend event,” she said. “Obviously, the city is looking at what could have been better as they always do — we were just in support of it.”