Irvine to discuss new policy to ease restrictions on personal office budget spending
Irvine City Council members could take more control over their personal budgets next week as they discuss removing most restrictions on the $ 100,000 they receive each year to fund their offices and businesses. activities.
The change comes after City Councilor Mike Carroll was accused of inappropriately spending his budget to help advertise community events he hosted, which critics say gave him an advantage in elections using public funds. In the end, the then board voted to retroactively approve the spending and to discuss the policy change for the next fiscal year.
Read: Irvine City Council approves mail expenses for City Councilor Mike Carroll despite city policy violation
Originally established in 1984, individual board member budgets were limited only to spending on “board executive assistant salaries … and related expenses, office equipment and supplies”, with a caveat that any other expense had to be approved by a vote of the board.
According to the proposed guidelines, as long as council members do not exceed their total budget allocation, they can spend the funds on whatever they want if they have the request approved by the city manager’s office and the municipal department. finances, according to a report from city staff. .
The problem only arises for the board if a board member wishes to spend more than their allocated budget.
Acting City Manager Marianna Marysheva said the proposed changes were proposed to bring the council’s budget in line with how city departments manage their spending.
“For example, (ministries) can transfer unused funds to their budget. If they have salary savings and they need consultants, or if they need to add to a particular contract, they have that flexibility in the budget, ”Marysheva said. “The same rules would apply to council office budgets if they were approved, according to which they would have the flexibility to use the total funding allocated under the applicable rules and regulations.”
In addition to their staff funds, council members each receive $ 10,000 per year which they can allocate to charities and nonprofits in the city, which will remain separate from the staff budget, according to Marysheva.
Last November, Carroll said he would push for more freedom over how board members can spend their money in the next budget.
“Each member of Irvine town council receives about $ 100,000 per year, and council members should be able to spend that as they see fit to help Irvine’s 280,000 residents,” Carroll said in a statement. phone call with Voice of OC.
Carroll, Councilor Anthony Kuo and Mayor Farrah Khan did not return requests for comment.
Councilor Tammy Kim said she was a big fan of the proposed system, explaining how flexibility would allow council members to structure their priorities as they see fit.
“We were elected because of our ability… to manage multi-million dollar budgets. That’s what voters expect a board member to be able to do, ”Kim said. “There is a certain confidence in whoever you elect.”
Asked about residents’ concerns about Carroll’s spending, Kim said she didn’t see his spending as an abuse of power and that it was an advantage to be an incumbent.
“There are services in the city that you need to promote, so I get flyers from (assembly) Steven Choi all the time. And yes, you could say it’s a campaign, but is it really? You have to be able to contact your constituents about what’s going on or what they have access to, ”Kim said. “If that’s where a board member chooses to spend their money, that’s their right. I say this as a person who came forward against Mike.
Councilor Larry Agran said that while he supported the existence of the council assistance program, he wanted to make sure there was enough oversight to know where the money is going.
“My mind is open on the subject, as to how these reforms might work in practice,” Agran said. “I would have to think about it a bit.”
The council will vote on the new policy at its 4 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, which may be seen here.
Noah Biesiada is a member of Voice of OC Reporting. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @NBiesiada.