A split Anaheim City Council voted Tuesday to cut in half the size of contracts the city manager can approve without the council’s consent, one of several votes the new council majority has taken to roll back decisions of the previous council.
The 4-3 vote reduced to $50,000 from $100,000 City Manager Paul Emery authority to approve contracts.
Councilman James Vanderbilt, who proposed the resolution, said it would improve transparency by allowing more financial decisions to come before the city council.
Its opponents — council members Kris Murray, Lucille Kring and Stephen Faessel — argued that reining in the city manager’s financial flexibility would micromanage the work of city staff and signal a lack of faith in Emery’s judgment.
Vanderbilt requested that the cut to Emery’s signing authority end after six months, at which time the council would reevaluate the decision.
This is the third time the council has changed the city manager’s signing authority in recent years.
City Manager Thomas Wood’s signing authority was increased to $250,000 in 2010, then lowered back to $100,000 the following year after questions about conflicts of interest involving contracts that did not go before the council for approval.
In Santa Ana, the second largest city in Orange County, the city manager can approve contracts and change orders up to $25,000, and must report those contracts to the city council on a quarterly basis. In Garden Grove, which has a population about half the size of Anaheim, the city manager can approve up to $50,000 in expenditures.
Emery noted that of the 212 contracts he individually approved in 2016, 31 would have fallen between $50,000 and $100,000.
Among the contracts he approved last year were two professional service contracts with Hill International, a firm which employs controversial former city council candidate Steve Chavez Lodge, who is also an policy aide to Kring. Most of the other contracts were agreements with groups hosting events in the city for extra police work and to hire instructors for public classes funded by the city.
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