Commentary: 60th party benefited council's political allies [Corrected, Nov. 7]

Re. "O.C. GOP boss defends role in 60th anniversary party," (Sept. 25): After reading Scott Baugh's defense of his company's participation in the city's anniversary celebration, I think there is really only one thing missing: a call to action.

When the city gives money toward the 60th anniversary event to the company owned by the GOP party chairman for Orange County, Scott Baugh, it raises serious questions.

When Baugh's company donates $8,000 in proceeds from food and beverage sales from the 60th celebration back to the O.C. Marathon before there is any accounting of the profit or loss to the city, one has to question who is looking after the city's interests.

Even if it is a charitable contribution to a good charity, it is potentially city money and should not have been donated in that fashion.

In years past, the O.C. Marathon spent 66% of its revenue on expenses and 34% went to the actual charity. Where did Baugh's $8,000 donation go? Did it go to the kids, as he implied, or did it go to expenses?

City CEO Tom Hatch promised us a forensic accounting of the 60th anniversary but none has been forthcoming. In a city that has gone to great pains to proclaim (although rather dubiously) its transparency, most requests for public records have been stymied.

I believe the $125,000 allocated to the event is just a small part of the total cost to the city. For example, public safety coverage is usually figured into the cost of an event and charged to that event, but the figures have not yet been made public. 

This brings me to the call for action.

First, we must press for a broad and comprehensive criminal investigation into the 60th anniversary party. I hope that is already occurring. We must be on guard to prevent the council majority from deflecting culpability or scapegoating lower-level employees.

Second, we should encourage city employees who are aware of any wrongdoing to come forward and go to the appropriate authorities, especially those employees who fear reprisal or loss of their jobs.

Third, we should immediately demand the cessation of the Charter Committee. Why should we waste any more time considering the means to allow the council majority to dig its hands even deeper into taxpayers' pockets?

Finally, we need real transparency on this and all city spending. The pretend transparency tossed about by Mayor Jim Righeimer and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger is meaningless, especially when questions of propriety regarding the 60th cause an immediate information blockade.

CLAY EPPERSON is a retired Costa Mesa police lieutenant.

[For the record, 6:13 p.m., Oct. 16: An early version of this commentary incorrectly identified city Public Affairs Director Dan Joyce as a member of the OC Marathon Board. He is not on the board, nor is he affiliated with the marathon as an unpaid volunteer. The piece also misstated that he was "hand-picked by the City Council majority" for his job. In fact, he was first hired by the city CEO's office, not the City Council, in 2011. In addition, the piece alleged the council majority approved a no-bid contract for the 60th Anniversary party. In fact, the City Council as a whole approved $125,000 of city money toward the entire event. Also, an assertion that Baugh's company donated $8,000 to the marathon was incorrect. The marathon foundation was compensated $5,000 to apply for a liquor license for the event; the remaining $3,000 was donated from TasteFest to the marthon's children's program.]

[For the record, 11:48 a.m. Nov. 7: The earlier correction incorrectly stated that a portion of city money went to KB Event Management.]

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