Amendment needed after first $50,000 devoured in less than 90 days
■ Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Reporter
An additional $50,000 was approved and added to the initial $50,000 compensated to MV Cheng & Associates of Pasadena for administrative services consultant Joy Canfield, who is working on a contract basis to fill the role of Jessica Hurst. Hurst suddenly resigned Feb. 23 as the city’s finance director and deputy city manager.
The city originally entered into a contract with consulting firm MV Cheng & Associates, Inc. on Feb. 27, 2017 for a contract director of finance/director of administrative services. MV Cheng & Associates provided Canfield, who retired from the city of Murrieta as its administrative services director in September 2016, to fill the role.
Councilwoman Bonnie Wright pulled this agenda item for discussion. It read, “First Amendment to Agreement for Services with MV Chang (sic) & Associates, Inc.,” and was the only item pulled for discussion from the Consent Calendar.
Wright raised the concern that the contract was being amended for an additional $50,000 just two and one half months after the contract began and wanted the item tabled until City Manager Alex Meyerhoff returned from the International Council of Shopping Centers Conference to speak to the item.
“The initial contract was optimistic in both the dollar amount and the duration. We asked for her to come in right when we were doing our budget preparation,” explained Hemet Police Chief Dave Brown, acting city manager. “The budget prep was in progress but not completed. Council is expecting a detailed budget preparation May 30 and the hours and dollar amount that were authorized in this contract are rapidly coming to an end.
“We asked our consultant to jump into full budget mode,” continued Brown. “Actually, she did a complete analysis of the city’s finances, which was not necessarily anticipated, and are now in the middle of labor negotiations for several groups. So, the quandary that we find ourselves in tonight is that the dollar amount may very well run out before your scheduled meeting on the 30th, which would give us no resources to finish that preparation for you.”
Mayor Pro Tem Michael Perciful expressed similar concern to Wright, stating that “this dollar amount is not going to get us through December considering the first dollar amount got us two and a half months. Where are we on finding a replacement for that position? You may not be able to answer that but that is a question that needs to be answered.”
Brown responded with “the plan is that once the labor negotiations are finished – we are getting very close to finishing them and the budget is adopted by council – the number of hours required by this consulting firm will significantly drop. At that point, we would hope that it would be project-based.”
“I cannot speak with authority as to where we are with the recruiting process,” added Brown.
The item was passed unanimously with only Mayor Linda Krupa, Mayor Pro Tem Michael Perciful and Councilwoman Bonnie Wright present at that point of the meeting. Councilman Russ Brown was absent due to a family emergency and Councilwoman Karlee Meyer arrived 40 minutes late after attending the graduation of one of her children. The council members present felt that in order to complete the budget process, the funding had to be approved.
The initial amount of the contract was not brought before council because the city manager has discretionary funds for up to $50,000. Anything over that amount, including contract amendments, must be brought to council for approval. Since the contract now exceeds $50,000, council had to approve the funds. Misty Cheng, founder and CEO of MV Cheng & Associates, said she was unaware that the amended contract required council approval.
What is the fiscal impact? Staff report states, and was confirmed during the discussion, that “Funding for this contract has been through the budgeted vacated Administrative Services Director/Deputy City Manager position. The City’s use of contract administrative services consultants on a limited basis enables us to achieve quality results at the lowest possible cost to the city.”