Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster announced on Monday, Nov. 25 that he is appointing Lori Ann Farrell, the City’s former chief financial officer, to one of two seats on the Long Beach Harbor Commission that have opened up after recent political turmoil.
The Long Beach Personnel and Civil Service Committee is scheduled to review the mayor’s appointment on Tuesday, Dec. 3, followed by City Council approval, according to a statement from Foster’s office.
Farrell, who worked for the City for five years– first as the city controller and then as the chief financial officer– before leaving in 2010 to serve as the finance director for the City of Huntington Beach, is expected to fill the seat vacated by Nick Sramek, who resigned from the Harbor Commission last week.
Sramek’s resignation came just two days after a heated City Council meeting in which the Council voted 6-3, in an unprecedented action, to remove Harbor Commission President Thomas Fields from his post at the mayor’s request.
During the Council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 19, Foster cited years of disagreements between him and Fields as the reason for the dismissal, expressing concerns about disputes over Port security, the location for the Port’s headquarters and Fields’s travel expenses. The mayor claimed Fields has spent in excess of $100,000 on travel during Port business while other commissioners spent $40,000.
Fields, however, defended his 15-year record serving the City, including on the City’s planning commission. He said his decisions while on the Harbor Commission have been “based on what is best for the Port and the City.” Fields requested the Council hold off on taking any action before the city auditor releases a report on harbor commissioners’ travel expenses.
Fields’s supporters, including international-trade-industry representatives, voiced strong opposition to the mayor’s recommendation, some stating that it would impact the City’s business relations with Port of Long Beach tenants.
Just two days after the Council meeting, Sramek, who was serving as the Harbor Commission vice president and has also served as a planning commissioner for the City, resigned from the Harbor Commission.
In his resignation letter sent on Thursday, Nov. 21, Sramek thanked Foster for the opportunity to serve on the Harbor Commission, stating that it’s been a “great honor” to oversee policy for the “sixth-largest port complex in the world and the second-largest in the country.”
Sramek added, however, that he has “great concerns about the Port and its politically charged dealings with the City.” Sramek said, “I feel that the direction undertaken by the City could have potentially dire effects on the Port and its customers, and consequentially, our local economy.”
Sramek told the Los Angeles Times that the removal of Fields from the Harbor Commission was “the final straw” and “should never have been in public.”
Foster stated that he appreciates Sramek’s many years of service on the Harbor Commission. “I deeply appreciate the time and contributions he’s given to the City and the residents of Long Beach,” Foster said.
The mayor also stated that he has confidence in Farrell, a 5th District resident who has lived in Long Beach for 14 years and serves on the Long Beach Transit Board as the secretary/treasurer.
“Lori Ann is the ideal candidate who demonstrated financial discipline while she served as the City of Long Beach chief financial officer,” Foster said. “I’m confident that she will serve the Harbor Commission well during a time when the Harbor Department will be going through several new changes.”
According to Foster’s office, Farrell is a recipient of several awards, including the Government Finance Officers’ Association Certificate of Excellence in Financial Reporting for the City of Long Beach, recognizing her financial-management skills. Farrell received her master’s of public administration degree from Columbia University.
Foster said he is still searching for a candidate to fill the Harbor Commission vacancy left by Fields.