City of Santa Monica
California

Staff Report
1537

Selection of Outside Advisor(s)

Information

Department:City Manager's Office, AdministrationSponsors:
Category:08. Administrative Item

Recommended Action

Recommended Action

Staff recommends that the City Council:

1.              Select one or more outside advisor(s) to conduct an independent review regarding best practices of California charter cities with a Council-manager form of government  in light of potential issues raised by the Elizabeth Riel matter and enforcement of the Oaks Initiative

2.              Authorize the City Manager to negotiate and execute a professional services agreement with the selected outside advisor(s) at an hourly rate between $225 and $750 to undertake preliminary review services

3.              Direct staff to provide the Council with the outsider advisor’s completed preliminary report and subsequent proposal for additional phases of work

 

Staff Report Body

Executive Summary

In the context of good governance practices, the Santa Monica City Council has authorized hiring an outside advisor to conduct a review of local government best practices. Six individuals/firms are now presented to the Council for consideration. Staff recommends that the Council consider the experience, expertise, and relative cost of the six possible advisors and select one or more to conduct a preliminary review regarding best practices of California charter cities with a Council-manager form of government and return with recommendations for additional phases of work.  Since the six responses fall broadly into two categories of expertise and proposed scope, the Council may wish to consider hiring more than one advisor to work together or separately toward the desired outcome.

 

Discussion

On September 29, 2015 the Santa Monica City Council authorized hiring an “appropriate outside adviser to conduct an independent review and write an independent report to be presented at a public meeting regarding the best practices of California charter cities with a council-manager form of government in the wake of resident concerns about the Elizabeth Riel matter and enforcement of the Oaks Initiative. The person hired to conduct the review and write the report shall be selected by the City Council in open session and shall have the power to obtain documents upon request and interview staff, elected officials, appointed officials, and third parties as necessary.”

 

Council’s articulated desire to engage an individual to conduct an independent and balanced review of City practices aligns with the good governance principles of accountability, transparency, responsiveness, and the highest ideals of public service.  While Santa Monica has not been embroiled in widespread scandals or reports of malfeasance, this action was taken in the context of specific concerns that the Council believes should be addressed in pursuit of transparency, accountability, and public trust and confidence in City governance.  The City, as detailed in the August 18, 2015 Institute for Local Governance (ILG’s) “Good Governance” checklist, practices almost all of the recommended actions, and many of the best practices, that promote public trust and confidence.

 

Members of the Council have suggested a number of individuals likely qualified to undertake the review. Six individuals/firms have provided information regarding their interest and availability for promptly undertaking the review, proposed financial terms, and their relevant experience or expertise. One suggested individual, Judge Dikram M. Tervizian, is not available. Biographies of each candidate, along with their letters to the Council, are attached to this report.

 

Four of the submissions come from attorneys (Gibson Dunn, Harris & Associates, Hueston, and Jones Day) and their firms having deep and extensive experience and expertise in probing the legal, operational and ethical issues involved in matters of public concern.  This background could be of significant value if the emphasis in this review is on analyzing what has already occurred to establish accountability, transparency and clarity as the basis for moving forward.  On the other hand, two of the individuals (Sonenshein and Stern) have a much deeper background and understanding of not only what constitutes best public sector practices, but also how to foster those best practices through both formal mechanisms (rules, reporting, regulation, enforcement etc.) as well as a durable and influential “culture” of “doing the right thing.”  

 

The Council may want to focus on one or the other of these dimensions - or perhaps combine the two by engaging more than one advisors to either jointly conduct the review, coordinate on separate reviews or simply produce two different complimentary work products.

 

Once the Council selects an independent advisor (or advisors), an agreement for a preliminary review of the facts would be executed. Work would begin promptly. Staff would transmit a report summarizing the advisor’s preliminary review to the Council, as well as the advisor’s proposal for completing the review, the cost and scope of which would be determined by the findings of the preliminary review. If two or more advisors are chosen, the division of labor and guidelines for collaboration would be identified.  Council would then have the opportunity to direct and authorize additional phases of work. If other issues or findings arise during the review process, the scope of work would be expanded to be responsive.

 

Staff recommends that the Council consider the experience, expertise, and relative cost of the six possible advisors and select one (or more) to conduct an independent review regarding best practices of California charter cities with a Council-manager form of government.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Financial Impacts and Budget Actions

The agreement to be awarded to the outside advisor for preliminary review services is for an hourly rate between $225 and $750. Funds are available in the FY2015-2016 budget in the Council Office. The agreement will be charged to account 01201.579000 (Council Discretionary Funds.) Staff will return to Council with specific budget actions related to any additional phases of work.

 

Meeting History

Nov 10, 2015 5:30 PM  City Council Regular Meeting
draft Draft