News / Budget Watch

City Mgr. Proposes Council Give Him Authority to Enter Into Contracts/Agreements Up to $250,000 (Instead of Current $100,000) Without Publicly Voted Council Approval; Item Is Included Among "Streamlining Processes" in City Mgr's Proposed FY13 Budget


(August 6, 2012) -- The City Manager's proposed FY13 budget includes a line item proposing to give the City Manager authority to enter into contracts or other agreements for up to $250,000 without City Council approval, a change from the current limit of up to $100,000.

Currently, contracts or agreements over $100,000 require voted Council approval, meaning they must be publicly agendized and can be debated and discussed and enables taxpayers to learn about the proposed agreements before they're entered into.

The item is listed in the Financial Management section under the heading "Streamline Purchasing and Accounts Payable processes, realign Budget Office expenditures, and reclassify staff." Its text states: "Accounts Payable will be decentralized to speed up processing. Departments will be authorized to make purchases up to $25,000 (from $10,000) and extend terms of contracts from one to two years with two one-year renewals, thereby reducing administrative workload. With a recommended City Code change, the City Manager purchasing approval will increase from $100,000 to $250,000 to reduce administrative overhead. One-time resources will be utilized to allow for the transition in the Accounts Payable decentralization process."

No proposed Municipal Code text was included in the budget materials, so it's unclear whether management seeks the increased authority for the City Manager personally or for his certain subordinate(s) or designee(s).

For roughly the past twenty years [and perhaps longer], Long Beach city management hasn't included -- and multiple LB City Councils haven't required -- proposed contracts agendized for approval. Instead, in Long Beach agenda items simply give the City Manager authority to negotiate and enter into agreements usually described in narrative verbiage in an accompanying memo but without the actual proposed contract (which may include details) and isn't seen by the Council or the public until after it's entered into and binding on the public.

In contrast, some other cities have been considerably transparent for years, routinely attaching proposed contracts to their Council agendas Councilmembers (who decide) and taxpayers (who'll pay) can see what's being proposed for approval before it's approved.

Last year, LB Councilman (now Vice Mayor) Robert Garcia advanced an agenda item that puts contracts online after they're approved, but left unchanged the LB Council's current policy of not disclosing contracts proposed for approval. On his personal website under the heading "A More Open Government," Councilman Garcia stated in November 2011 (in an item he linked to Thanksgiving) that "government is more transparent than ever with new policies and technology improvements" which includes "the city's first open government policy, placing completed contracts online..."


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