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Costa Mesa City Council Gives Away $73 Million of Taxpayer Money on 6-1 vote

Some residents and council members question why city employees receive five more paid holidays than the average private company.

On April 4th, the Costa Mesa City Council made a significant decision regarding the city’s finances, voting 6-1 in favor of a “paid holiday” at an estimated annual cost of $603,000.

This decision came just weeks after the council approved millions in raises and increased retirement and health benefits. However, what raised eyebrows was the fact the item was placed on the “consent calendar,” a list of items that are generally routine and can be voted on in one single motion. This seemed out of place according to one council member, who pointed out the the significant cost associated with the decision.

Council member Don Harper pulled the item and questioned who added the “paid holiday” item to the agenda. The city manager responded, saying unions had requested the additional holiday over a year ago. Mayor John Stephens and other council members, who have received substantial union contributions to their political campaigns, did not question the item or any costs associated.

The move to not inquire about further details on the true cost to taxpayers could raise questions about the council’s motives and transparency of use of city funds.

It is worth noting that the average private company in the US provides eight paid holidays. The city of Costa Mesa now provides 13 paid holidays, well above the market. While the cost of the paid holiday was calculated at $133K by city staff, Harper challenged the calculation, pointing out that the city’s annual payroll is over $112 million with 40% in added benefits. A quick calculation shows that this decision could cost taxpayers $73 million over 40 years at a 5 percent interest rate.

Council member Loren Gameros, a union employee, justified the cost by saying giving employees a day off will only help them recharge and accomplish more when they return to work. However, given the timing of the decision and the lack of transparency, residents are calling into question the council’s motives. 

Some could also question why this item was not used as a bargaining chip in the union negotiation contracts completed just weeks prior and why it was hidden on the “consent calendar” rather than being discussed on the regular agenda.

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