For the last 13 years the city of Malibu has dutifully paid the firm of California Strategies nearly $2 million, without any apparent written accountability.
And as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBUU and select websites, , this is contrary to commonly accepted consultant practices, especially in the public sector.
With the Sacramento-based firm’s contract with the city of Malibu soon up for extension, perhaps it is time to halt the reflex action of rubber-stamping that has been the practice of past councils, and openly review the agreement. Time seems ripe for some City Hall transparency.
In answer to a pointed question, Malibu City Manager city Reva Feldman stated the firm has provided verbal “updates and political context,” to her several times a week, though she noted “we do not keep written logs of those calls or of meetings in Sacramento.
The firm principal Ted Harris added California Strategies does not prepare or submit written reports,” nor does it have a written list of the City’s goals, objectives, and priorities in our files.”
That was in response to a city request, prompted by a Freedom of Information inquiry I submitted with the assistance of KBUU and several concerned citizens.
In variance to the statement, Harris signature is on the firm’s recent contract with Malibu in which goals, objectives and priorities of the city are prominently listed. The executed contract further states “all files of the Consultant pertaining to the City shall be and remain the property of the City,” and “the consultant will control the physical location of such files.”
In addition, a scan of reports obtained in the FOI request indicated tens of thousands of dollars have been expended by councilpersons Lou La Monte, Laura Rosenthal and Skylar Peak, and Feldman, on numerous trips to mostly Sacramento, and also to San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Not found was any reference to California Strategies.
While their expenses were documented, no notation could be further found indicating what particular venue was visited, what was discussed, and how it might affect Malibu. There have been brief oral remarks at Council meetings, of events attended but no specifics recorded.
ln the public and private sectors, when dealing with consultants, there is among professionals a commonly accepted hypothesis of “a reasonable expectation of service.” .
Perhaps this would be a good time for City Hall to adopt that standard, starting with a review of its agreement with California Strategies.