Newport councilman wants colleague serving on Finance Committee demoted or removed


Newport Beach Councilman Scott Peotter is requesting that the City Council vote Tuesday either to replace Councilman Keith Curry as chairman of the city Finance Committee or remove him from the committee altogether.

Curry has served on the seven-member committee since 2006 and has been chairman about half that time. Councilman Tony Petros, Mayor Diane Dixon and four appointed residents make up the rest of this year’s committee, which reviews the city’s annual budget and advises the City Council on financial matters.

Peotter alleges that Curry lately has blocked committee members from adding items to the agenda for discussion and prevented them from thoroughly reviewing budget documents.

“He’s been a block with the Finance Committee, preventing them from getting anything done,” Peotter said Friday. “The agenda is tightly controlled by him so other people can’t get items on the agenda.”

Curry countered by saying Peotter is calling for his removal because Curry opposed a proposal that the city look into putting surplus money into a trust to cover its unfunded pension liability. The unfunded liability is the difference between the amount the city will owe in retirement benefits and the money it has set aside to fund them.

Committee member Patti Gorczyca, whom Peotter appointed to the panel, suggested the group explore the surplus option, according to meeting minutes.

Curry called the proposal “financially illiterate.”

Curry instead favors a plan already in place, in which the city uses a portion of its surplus money to accelerate payments to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System in an effort to pay off the city’s projected $257-million liability in 19 years — 11 years faster than its previous 30-year plan. The payment plan is expected to save $129 million in interest over 30 years, city staff has said.

Curry said he learned of the proposal to remove him in an email from City Manager Dave Kiff on Wednesday, the day before the council agenda was made public.

“I didn’t get any advance warning or courtesy notice from my colleague,” Curry said.

The City Council could vote to remove Curry as chairman of the committee, remove him from the committee completely or allow him to remain in his position.

If the council chooses to remove him, Dixon would appoint another council member to the panel and remove the committee member whom that person had appointed.

Peotter said it’s important to make the change now, as next fiscal year’s budget is making its way through the Finance Committee to the City Council.

“We need to flesh out all the details of the budget and look at alternative ideas,” Peotter said. “If we don’t do this now, we won’t be able to have a really good look at the budget.”

Tuesday’s City Council meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 100 Civic Center Drive.

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