The Costa Mesa City Council added a high-level management job to the city’s payroll on Tuesday as part of an effort to attract new businesses to town.
The council voted 4-0, with Councilman Jim Righeimer absent, to establish the position of economic development director and give it to the interim assistant CEO, Peter Naghavi. Naghavi will earn a maximum of $185,760 annually.
Councilman Stephen Mensinger said the new position is needed because the city hasn’t done enough to coordinate its development strategy.
“An economic development person is a person that’s going to be out there, who’s going to be trying to [fit] the right pieces of the puzzle together and attract the kinds of work that fit the plan and fit what we’re looking for in our community,” Mensinger said.
Beyond attracting new business, Naghavi will be responsible for building public-private partnerships and encouraging development projects.
A Costa Mesa resident criticized Naghavi’s salary as being too high, especially during a period when council members say the city faces deep financial trouble and nearly half the city’s staff have been issued layoff notices.
“This is a huge amount of money to pay anybody,” said Susan Shaw, who added that she was concerned about the city’s recent addition of new managers. “I’m concerned that we don’t have money and we’re trying to be conservative. And shoot, I’m a liberal, I’m a Democrat, I’m not [a] conservative. But I would never do this.”
Responding to the criticism, Councilman Eric Bever said the city has lost several directors and that city CEO Tom Hatch needs the help.
“He needs people running his departments. Those are the people we’ve been hiring. So if you guys don’t like it, well, tough luck,” said Bever.
Mensinger also said at Tuesday’s meeting that Hatch and Police Chief Tom Gazsi have offered to pay the full share of their pension contributions. Several of the city’s department heads have also agreed to pay their maximum-allowed share, according to the Daily Pilot.
The council also issued an official request for private companies to submit proposals for taking over the city’s building maintenance duties. The request for proposals is one of several that have been issued in recent months as the city looks into outsourcing a large amount of its services.
A preliminary court order prevents Costa Mesa from outsourcing services to private firms pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by the city’s municipal employees union. The trial is set for April.
— NICK GERDA
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