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Secret Service won't pay Newport Beach for police at Obama event

Newport Beach billed President Obama's campaign for police security at a fundraiser. The Secret Service says that security is its job, not the campaign's, but that it can't reimburse the city.

July 30, 2012|By Mike Reicher, Los Angeles Times
  • Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff billed the campaigns of President Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney for police security at their separate fundraisers this year in the city.
Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff billed the campaigns of President… (Mandel Ngan / Getty Images )

A Secret Service official said Newport Beach city administrators are asking the wrong people to pay for police protection at presidential campaign events.

It's the service that is responsible for the candidates' security, not the campaigns, said Max Milien, an agency spokesman. Any cost concerns should be directed to the agency.

Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff billed the campaigns of President Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney for police security at their separate fundraisers this year in the city.

Now that the Romney campaign paid its bill, the city is left in the awkward position of trying to collect from Obama.

"We cannot reimburse any agencies," Milien said. "We make that clear from Day 1."

Milien explained that an advance team works with local law enforcement to plan road closures and other measures before a candidate's visit. If the local agency cannot afford to pay for extra security or overtime, the local officials should inform the Secret Service ahead of time, he said.

In that case, Milien said, the Secret Service would seek help from other law enforcement groups — county or state police, for example, who would not charge for the service.

"There is adequate time if an agency cannot assist us and is strapped for manpower," he said, adding that the Secret Service does not have the budget for that type of expense.

Kiff says the Police Department did raise the issue with the Secret Service before the president's visit.

"At that time, our staff was told that the Secret Service would not reimburse the city," Kiff wrote in an email, "and that we should check with the president's campaign or the DNC."

The Romney campaign paid its bill last week, about a month after the city sent its invoice. The Obama bill, on the other hand, was sent in May and has not been paid.

City spokeswoman Tara Finnigan said the city's billing system would be sending past-due notices.

About three weeks ago, the Democratic National Committee contacted the city and told officials to deal with the Secret Service.

The DNC and the Republican National Committee split their Newport Beach event proceeds with the respective campaigns.

"Any local law enforcement organization contacted by the Secret Service to assist in security should discuss matters related to costs and how to effectively manage those costs with the Secret Service," DNC spokeswoman Melanie Roussell wrote in an email Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Kiff would like the issue to go away.

"I am very tired of this story, but it will have legs again," Kiff wrote in an email to the City Council after the Orange County Register inquired about the Romney campaign's payment.

The city was "honored" to have the president in town, Kiff said, but he viewed the campaign fundraisers as private events.

"Had this been a 'business trip' — if the president came to Newport Beach to talk about one of his policies with our residents — the city would not have sent an invoice," he wrote in an email.

Newport Beach is in strong fiscal shape, with about $98 million in reserves.

The city's Finance Department recently emailed the Obama campaign a reminder about the bill instead of turning to the Secret Service, Finnigan said. City administrators did not return messages asking about their next steps.

Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, a Republican, said, "It's the city's intention to apply its usual policies and send the bill to collections."

Obama spoke at a private home in Corona del Mar in February, and Romney held his May fundraiser at the Balboa Bay Club. The $35,000 bill for Obama was more than three times as much as Romney's. Kiff said the difference was due to the added street closures and additional security requirements for the president.

Costa Mesa police did not bill the Romney campaign for an event this week because it did not require additional police personnel, city spokesman Bill Lobdell said.

mike.reicher@latimes.com

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