The pledge by Team Newport to audit the $140 million Taj Mahal – $228 million with debt service – Newport Beach allocates $300,000 for Civic Center audit

Newport Beach, California –

An audit of the Newport Beach Civic Center construction process is moving ahead with a new – and higher – price tag.

The City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday in favor of the audit and to allocate $300,000 for its completion, including periodic reporting to the council.

Mayor Ed Selich and council members Keith Curry and Tony Petros voted against the measure.

Councilwoman Diane Dixon said the council owed constituents an audit of the $140 million project. She said it would also give the city a better idea of how to manage future projects the same size or scope of the Civic Center.

“My wish is this gets a clean bill of health and we can move on,” Dixon said. “I’d like to take the acrimony out of this and see this as a positive.”

Curry called the audit a political manipulation to use in the upcoming election cycle. The city manager already provided “two feet” of documents and a review of the building process, he said. Taxpayer money could be better used for projects in the community, he said.

“We’re asking consultants to tell us who won WWII,” Curry said. “It’s a complete waste of money.”

Planning for the facility started more than 15 years ago and its scope morphed significantly over the years, according to Register archives. The complex near Fashion Island opened in 2013 and included the government building, council chambers, a 450-space parking structure sunk to protect views, a 17,000-square-foot library expansion and a 14-acre park connected by an over-road bridge.

The council in June asked the city attorney’s office to hire an independent audit project manager, who could then hire a firm to do a financial and management performance audit of the Civic Center project. When the audit was originally brought up in January by council members, a price tag of $100,000 was highlighted.

Allyson Gipson, the independent audit manager hired by the city, said the industry standard for the cost of audits this size are usually one percent of the total cost of the project, though she thought the city could get an audit at about half that price.

A staff report suggested a two-phase audit, which could cost as much as $560,000 – about $110,000 for the first phase and $450,000 for the second. The council voted to limit the audit to one phase and set the limit at $300,000.
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Keeping a Campaign Promise – Auditing the Taj

Dear Friend,

Our steering committee met a couple of weeks ago to review the past year since Team Newport was elected, and plan for the 2016 city elections.

One of the key issues in last year’s election was the pledge by Team Newport to audit the $140 million Taj Mahal. ($228 million with debt service)

On a 4-3 vote, Team Newport (Diane Dixon, Kevin Muldoon, Duffy, and Scott Peotter) approved a $300,000 contract to conduct an audit with the goal of finding out if taxpayers were fleeced, or if the costs were supportable and reasonable.

Of course, leading the opposition to the audit was Keith Curry – the councilman that spent over $1 million trying to ban wood burning fire rings.

You can read the Register’s recap of the city council’s action here, including Keith Curry’s claim that the audit is a politically motivated “complete waste of money.”

I am proud that Team Newport kept their word – a novelty in these times.

Bob McCaffrey

Volunteer Chairman, Residents for Reform

Newport Beach