[UPDATED: Corrections] Daily Pilot Columnist William Lobdell Joining City of Costa Mesa as Communications Director

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UPDATE, MARCH 22, 9:42 P.M.: William Lobdell contacted the Weekly and pointed out that a few of our facts were incorrect. He is currently on a 90-day contract with the city, so the $150,000-plus is overstating. After his initial contract, if he and the city choose to continue working together, another contract and salary will be negotiated.

Also, since he is being hired on as a consultant, he is not eligible for benefits.

UPDATE, MARCH 22, 2:50 P.M.: The Weekly must have missed something yesterday when it read William Lobdell's farewell column, but upon second look, we saw that Costa Mesa's incoming communications director will be making $75 per hour, which simple math works out to more than $155,000 (plus benefits) per year, if he is working a 40-hour workweek. 

"I get how people might not like that the city is laying off all these people, but bringing someone in to do communications, but that's what the council and the city manager want," Lobdell said. 

Thomas Hatch, the city chief executive (or city manager), was not available for comment; he was in a budget meeting.

Considering the city is in "a state of crisis," as Lobdell indicated, a top-notch writer who can better explain in a clear and concise manner why the city has no hard facts for why it makes the decisions it does may be a good investment. 

Fact of the matter is that 213 people were given lay-off notices, and Lobdell's salary accounts for at least two or three outgoing employees. 

Lobdell did make a good point that bringing in a PR firm for crisis management would cost the city quite a bit more, which is why he sees his salary as "a pretty good price." We will see.

ORIGINAL POST, MARCH 21, 7:09 P.M.: The city of Costa Mesa needs all the help it can get. As you (should) know, there has been controversy and tragedy, and a battle is a-brewin' within the confines of the central OC city. William Lobdell, a resident of Costa Mesa for more than two decades and a journalist with the Los Angeles Times and Daily Pilot, knows this all too well. He thinks he can help. Which is why he said goodbye to his twice-weekly column and accepted a position as communications director with the troubled city.

Lobdell's goal: To make the city of Costa Mesa "the most transparent city in the nation."

How exactly he intends to meet that goal has yet to explained. Lobdell intends to revamp the current website in order to make it more resident-friendly and load it with "as many public documents as possible."

Lobdell said he was contacted about the position nearly a week and a half ago. He indicated to the city chief executive, Tom Hatch, that he would only take the position if he were going to be given "free rein" to organize and execute his role as he deemed fit. When the city agreed, so did Lobdell.

The former columnist pointed to the current budget issues and resulting controversies (the outsourcing of 213 city jobs) as an area where better communication between the city and its residents and employees may have resulted in a better outcome. 

We imagine that sugar-coating the decision to lay off one-third of the city workforce would have taken a masterful bit of PR savvy. We'll see what Lobdell can do for Monahan's reputation as he moves forward.

So far, Lodbell says the response to his leaving journalism and entering public relations has been mostly positive. But he realizes he's entering into a difficult situation--into "a city that is divided."

Part of Lobdell's plan for increasing transparency will include further use of social media, as well as some old-fashioned techniques, including town-hall meetings. Lobdell hopes to meet with neighborhood associations, bringing along Hatch and a council member in order to discuss the issues of the day in order to open a dialogue.

This should be interesting.

More information about Lobdell's position and what residents should expect will be unveiled in the coming days.  

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