The $10,000 of Manhattan Beach city funds used by the Centennial Committee prompted a heated discussion between Mayor Nick Tell and Mayor Pro Tem Wayne Powell at the City Council meeting on Sept. 20, revealing a miscommunication between council members regarding the nature of the funds.
Was it a loan that would eventually be paid back, or the city’s financial commitment toward the centennial celebrations?
Powell broached the subject at the meeting, noting that residents were told in June that the money that was borrowed from the city had been paid back. Powell said that he had not seen a check that proved the payment. Tell said that the $10,000 was actually seed money that was not intended to be returned, and what was paid back was the money borrowed in addition to the $10,000.
According to a Centennial Committee minutes, $489 was returned to the city in March. The $489 was spent in excess to the city’s $10,000 commitment, Tell said at the meeting, which is why it was paid back.
The $10,000 went toward newspaper ads, fireworks, t-shirts for the Hometown Fair and the centennial website, according to the committee’s minutes.
Residents were under the impression that taxpayer dollars would not be used toward the city’s centennial celebrations. If taxpayer dollars would be used, Powell said, the funds should be accounted for and residents should know. “I think you have an obligation to the taxpayers to show how the centennial funds are being spent because $10,000 has come from taxpayers, and without that, we don’t have transparency and accountability,” Powell said.
Tell accused Powell of grandstanding, and that if there was a miscommunication regarding the nature of the funds, it could be fixed.
The argument tapered when Councilmember David Lesser suggested the issue be put on the agenda to be discussed at another time.
“We’re happy to agendize it,” Tell said at the meeting. “The centennial will do whatever this council wants them to do. If, now, the council wants it paid back, we can make that decision if it wasn’t made back then.”
Upon looking at the old paperwork, the funds were never meant to be a loan, Tell said in an interview this week. “That doesn’t mean council can’t change its mind,” Tell said. “It’s too bad that a small issue blew up like this, simply because there are so many good things going on.”
Powell commended the work of the committee, adding that taxpayers should know how city funds are being spent. “I felt obligated to bring it up,” Powell said in an interview last week.
The Manhattan Beach City Council will decide whether or not the committee should repay the $10,000 when the issue is put on a meeting agenda.