Irvine council to consider suing Agran to force testimony

By Sarah de Crescenzo

IRVINE – Less than a week after Councilwoman Christina Shea blamed the latest delay in the release of the Orange County Great Park audit on former Councilman Larry Agran and threatened to take him to court, the City Council is set to consider suing Agran to force his testimony.

The comprehensive review of more than $200 million spent on the park’s development began in June of 2013.

While Agran has called the audit politically motivated, its proponents have said the accounting is needed to determine whether spending was wasteful or inappropriate.

The timeline for the audit’s release has been repeatedly extended. On Tuesday, Shea said Agran’s demands to be deposed “on his own terms” were holding up the final report.

Earlier this week, Agran dismissed the intimation that he is at fault for the audit’s delay.

The audit began in 2013 while he was a council member, but he did not receive any request for audit-related information until after he was voted out of office in December, he said.

Agran said he agreed to respond via writing to queries about Great Park-related documents he has provided, but that the city demanded he answer in person.

He did not appear for the deposition scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, according to a transcript from the meeting, held at the Irvine office of Aleshire & Wynder, the law firm overseeing the audit.

Through his attorney, Agran has requested the deposition be delayed until late March and that the city pay his legal fees.

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Deposition: Major Parts of Great Park Design Were Never ‘Constructible’

By Adam Elmahrek

Designs of major Great Park features – a man-made lake, hundreds of acres in park land and a wildlife corridor — were so poor that they couldn’t be built as presented in schematic documents, the park’s former program manager testified in a deposition released this week.

Brendan McDevitt told auditors that the lake couldn’t be built because the U.S. Navy – which was concerned with cleaning up contaminated groundwater – wouldn’t have allowed the necessary excavation.

And other designs – like the planned flow of “enormous” amounts of water into a wildlife corridor – were not logistically possible, according to McDevitt’s testimony. The corridor had to be redesigned from scratch after spending “north” of $500,000, he said.

Unnecessary spending on unrealistic plans could have been prevented with skilled leadership that should have spotted obvious flaws in the consultants’ presentations, according to the testimony.

But the Irvine City Council and park board directors were so inexperienced in major projects that they were easily fooled by design consultants who took advantage of them, McDevitt told auditors.

“There’s a great board meeting you should watch of Pat Fuscoe and [master designer] Ken Smith presenting the plan, and it’s absolutely unbuildable,” McDevitt said, referring to a plan to construct 500 acres of the park. “Their argument for why you could build that much acreage for [$30 million or $40 million] is because it’s – it’s wide and shallow, which doesn’t have any engineering definition. It means nothing. But it sounds good, you know.”

McDevitt’s testimony is the latest in a series of depositions taken in the course of a forensic investigation by Newport Beach-based Hagen, Streiff, Newton & Oshiro Accountants into what happened to well over $200 million spent on the 1,300-acre project.

The Great Park was supposed to rival New York’s Central Park but instead became a poster-child for government boondoggles, critics argue.

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