Thursday, June 29, 2006 | In February 2005, the city of San Diego signed a contract with Kroll Inc., a New York-based company that bills itself as “the world’s leading risk consulting company,” to “independently” investigate the city’s pension crisis. Kroll’s original contract was to cost $250,000 with the company’s resulting 250-page report to be released in December 2005. To date, Kroll has yet to complete its report and the Kroll consultants – headed by former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commissioner Arthur Levitt – have appeared before the San Diego City Council on numerous occasions to request additional time and funds to complete their work. The price of Kroll’s contract is now $20.3 million and the company expects to release its report this summer.
Kroll’s report will be the second such investigation completed by an outside consultant to the city. In April 2005, the Houston law firm Vinson & Elkins, best known as the former law firm of Enron, charged the city $5.7 million to produce a widely derided report on the pension crisis, which concluded that not a single city employee or elected official is legally culpable of actions leading to the city’s $1.4 billion pension deficit. Below is a more accurate advertisement requesting consultants’ applications for Kroll’s contract that SHOULD have run in leading public administration publications everywhere in early 2005…but didn’t.
Client: city of San Diego (a.k.a. “Project Manager Paradise”)
Consultant Role: Write 250 page report detailing how the city of San Diego went broke over this whole pension thing.
- Tell the bond rating agencies that the high-octane brains at San Diego city hall aren’t all that corrupt and shouldn’t go to jail;
- Explain to city residents, in complicated language, how a deficit of more than $1.4 billion grew within the city’s pension system. Note: Any San Diegan who has followed local news with even the passing interest of a fruit fly knows the answer; we just need an official consultant to tell us, uh, officially.
- Clean up the previously cooked books from 2002 and 2003, giving the city standing to borrow money on the market at really high interest rates to fill potholes, improve sewage systems, and pay for all those other cool amenities that any good Lego village needs;
- Continually testify to the San Diego City Council that the original cost and timeline of the contract with the city to write this report is too low and too short. The city of San Diego will gladly provide more money to its consultant, up to and likely to exceed 80 times the original price of the contract.
Ideal Candidate:Your company must be headed up by a big-shot, former presidential appointee who knows a bit about securities fraud. This friend-of-the-powerful doesn’t need to actually do a whole lot personally on this project, just show up at one City Council meeting and explain why your contract costs so much. During this meeting, this esteemed leader may bill the city for his time at the well-earned rate of $900 per hour. Feel free to drop the hero off at the meeting before the glorious “public comment” period begins. That way your company can rake in the dough all while a citizen reads poetry lambasting Mayor Jerry Sanders’ extensive ties to Al Qaeda;
- Your company must be based in New York, Washington, D.C., or another big-time urbane Mecca of climbers and strivers that makes San Diego’s “decision makers” immediately feel intellectually and professionally inferior;
- The consultants you assign to this project must be willing to ride around town in high-priced rental limousines on the city’s dime;
- When walking around downtown San Diego, your consultants must dress extremely well. Heck, the city isn’t paying them for nothing! Look good, consultant friend, we want you to tell us ignorant savages what exactly is wrong with us and why! Don’t be self-conscious of your 24 karat gold cufflinks; we appreciate such a classy touch. In fact, this pension problem can definitely help sell the whole “live, work, play” ethos of the yuppie subculture to legions of young hipster consultants willing to pay top-dollar for particle board-built condos on downtown blocks with zero ground-floor retail. In fact, when this whole pension thing blows over, stay a while; you might actually like the primitive culture here in San Diego. We don’t have much in the way of Ethiopian food at 2 a.m., which you certainly can get back home in New York, but we’ve got beaches – where, for a limited time, you can smoke your cigarettes!
PriceAlright, so here’s the deal. We lowball you at first, because that’s the way political expediency works. We’ll “say” that the contract is worth a paltry $250,000. But – and this is where it gets fun – all you need to do is just keep coming back to the City Council for more time and more money. Much like a 17 year-old with wealthy indulgent parents and no job, the City Council will hem and haw about “timelines, deliverables, reports, pensions, blah, blah, blah,” but the council will be sure to give you whatever you want. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were wise enough to extend your contract by more than six months and raise it to a lip-licking $20.3 million, 81.2 times the original $250,000 price of the contract! Talk about a deal, that equals out to $81,200 PER PAGE of the 250 page report that you will give us sometime in the near or distant future!
Please Send your Consulting Company’s Qualifications to:
The City of San Diego
1200 Third Avenue
San Diego, California 92101
Deadline for Submittal:
January 15, 2005 (or so, don’t worry, we’re flexible!)
Ramsey Green, a native San Diegan, is currently a graduate student concentrating in public finance at the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he is tired of being laughed at by other public policy geeks because he’s from San Diego. Reach him at email@example.com. Or write a letter to the editor.