OP/ED: Taj-Ma-City-Hall Audit

OP/ED: Taj-Ma-City-Hall Audit

By Scott Peotter | Special to the NB Indy

We Needed an Adult in the Room!

The city’s auditors of the Taj-Ma-City-Hall made a presentation of their draft report last week. The bottom line? The City went over its own inflated budget by $29.3 Million and there is $1.2 Million in apparent overpayments that were paid to CW Driver. It seems the Previous Council couldn’t say no to anything.

Oh–and the project was $149M, not $142.5M. But what is a few Million amongst friends? In private industry people actually get fired for this.

Fox Watching the Hen House

The City’s team was made up of CW Driver as the Program Manager (Owner’s Representative) and CW Driver as the Construction Manager, so you had CW Driver watching CW Driver on behalf of the city, or in other words, we had the fox watching the henhouse.

It appears that CW Driver was hired as the Program Manager for $2.3 Million. This was done through a Request for Qualifications process (RFQ) and CW Driver was selected from several competing firms. Then it appears as though CW Driver was extended the Contraction Manager contract which started at $14.5Million without any bid, RFQ, or RFP process (in other words it was a sole source contract), but we are not sure because we do not seem to have the documentation.

So who was watching CW Driver? Evidently, not the city.

Budget Control? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Budget Control!

The Auditors said that the project was poorly run, that there were no apparent budget controls, no oversight, no apparent value engineering (duh!), no updated schedules, no regular project updates, and that there are a lot of missing documents which make it difficult to determine if the city paid more than it should.

We can all relate to people charging us more: “We are in Newport so we can afford it”

The square footage of the Taj went up 25 percent, but that was OK (not) because the cost/sf went up over 50 percent too! But this was never presented at council meetings, modifying the budget up an additional $14.6M accordingly.

You already know about the $1,000 desk chairs (which are not very comfortable by the way), but did you know that the windows at the Taj open and close automatically, depending on the outside temperature? Or that the blinds open and close automatically as the sun changes position? Nice if you can afford it.

If you have walked into the new Library Expansion from the Taj side of the Library and have gone in double doors, I would like to know who thought it would be a good idea to put a column in the middle of the opening? Yes, there is a column that you have to walk around after you walk in the doors.

Which is the Most Expensive Option? We’ll Take Two!

There doesn’t appear to have been any malfeasance in the construction of the Taj-Ma-City-Hall, at least that is what the city’s auditors are telling us. They actually go as far as to say that we got what we paid for. You ordered a custom built Ferrari and you got a Ferrari (not just a Mercedes, or a Cadillac).

Reminds me of the quote from former mayor Rush Hill according to the OC Register of February 21, 2014: “The architects we hired wanted to have the highest opportunity for design awards,” he said. “This was a high-design architect that does things in minute detail that many people don’t even see, but that ends up costing a lot of money. In the end, we did get an award-winning facility, but we paid for it.”

And we are still paying for it!

Scott Peotter is a Newport Beach City Councilman

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