O.C. REGISTER: Grand Jury Confirms Great Park Failures

By Dick Ackerman

The third time is the charm. The Orange County grand jury recently issued its third report reviewing the Great Park, its progress and governance.

The city of Irvine is required by law to respond to the report with specific action items addressing the findings. Our new City Council has spent 18 months auditing how over $250 million was spent on Great Park planning. Other than reams of pie-in-the-sky plans sitting on a shelf and some free concerts, there is little to show for our money.

As the city prepares its mandatory response to the grand jury report, I encourage them to include the findings of the Great Park audit as evidence of the reforms that have been implemented. The new council understands the depth of the problem created by others. I am confident that they are on the path to correcting the issues.

Over the past decade, the Irvine City Council was controlled by Larry Agran and Beth Krom. They ran the Great Park with an iron fist, hiring their friends, favorite consultants and passing out public money at a feverish pace – and they ran the project into a ditch.

Early in the report, the grand jury calls out the Agran and Krom by saying, “There is strong evidence of serious mismanagement of the Great Park project, costing taxpayers significant amounts of public monies.”

For the past 18 months, the city has undertaken a forensic audit of the Great Park planning process and spending. A unanimous vote – including Agran and Krom – authorized the audit. Many of the grand jury’s findings echo the findings of the Great Park audit.

I believe the grand jury is correct in its conclusion that there is strong evidence of mismanagement and squandering of public funds.

This is the third grand jury report on the Great Park. In 2006, the grand jury criticized the lack of transparency; in 2010, it questioned the park’s financial structure; and this year, it highlighted questionable expenses, including over $12 million for the Orange Balloon, and its $1 million annual operation budget.

The grand jury censured the old City Council for suppressing the true cost of the park, first telling the public it would cost $1 billion, and hiding from the public two subsequent estimates of $1.6 billion, and finally the true cost of $3 billion to $5 billion.

I am confident that new City Council’s majority will heed the advice of the grand jury and implement long-needed reforms, including a 10-year Great Park Master Plan that is grounded in the realities of today’s economy.

As a former city councilman, mayor, Irvine’s assemblyman, and state senator, I have never seen $250 million squandered in this manner by any city. The contrast is stark: The old council spent money trying to win awards for plans, and our new council is building the Great Park.

We now have three grand jury reports and a detailed forensic audit condemning Beth Krom and Larry Agran’s wasteful mismanagement of $250 million. They should be held accountable for their misdeeds.


Judge orders former Irvine mayor Larry Agran to testify about Great Park

By Sarah de Crescenzo

An Orange County Superior Court judge has ordered former Irvine mayor Larry Agran to answer questions about any quid pro quo arrangements with Great Park contractors or consultants.

Judge Franz Miller issued a minute order last week, tentatively ruling that Agran must respond in writing to questions submitted by Anthony Taylor, the city of Irvine’s attorney on Great Park matters. The testimony will be sealed.

But the judge denied the city’s request to hold Agran in contempt and to make him pay attorney fees.

The city hired Taylor to investigate the $251 million spent through 2014 on the park project, which critics have called an overly ambitious and poorly managed fiasco, and he questioned Agran in March.

During the deposition, Taylor asked the longtime politician to name any companies that did work on the Great Park and also volunteered for Agran’s political campaigns from 2005-12.

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…

Irvine Seeks Contempt Charge Against Ex-Mayor For Evading Great Park Questions

By R. Scott Moxley

The City of Irvine has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to issue a contempt order against former mayor Larry Agran for refusing to answer questions under oath about financial benefits he may have received from Orange County Great Park contractors when he controlled the $1.6 billion project.

Anthony R. Taylor, the city’s special counsel, filed the superior court case this week in hopes of forcing Agran, a 1992 Democratic Party presidential primary candidate, to field questions he adamantly refused to answer during a March deposition.

Failure to obey a court order could result in jail time.

Agran–a lawyer and longtime boss of a political machine that ran Irvine and its proposed Great Park project for 12 years until 2012–has had troubled explaining how he spent $250 million in taxpayer funds without building a single, major planned feature.

Read more at OC Weekly…

Final Audit Report Shows Larry Agran’s Great Park Plan Was A Debacle From Outset

By R. Scott Moxley, O.C. Weekly

Twelve years ago, Larry Agran, Irvine’s career politician and mayor who’d never built anything, issued bold statements about his ability to build a “world-class” government park at the mothballed Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, and people, especially journalists, believed him.
“Move over, Manhattan,” wrote an excited Christian Science Monitor reporter in April 2003. “Stand aside San Francisco. In Orange County, the final hurdle has been cleared for a ‘county great park’ that will exceed the size of Central Park and Golden Gate Park put together.”

The reporter–who didn’t know the mayor and his political scheming actually would be the final hurdles–went on to echo the mayor’s oral machinations, declaring that “the area is considered America’s leading laboratory of ‘post suburbia’ . . . ”

Agran also provided the money quote, “We are finally moving forward with a plan that will transform the future of Orange County.”

In pure Agranista form, the paper unquestioningly repeated his biggest lie in the title to a chapter in the article: “No cost to citizens.”

Add you own exclamation point!

Those of us who for 12 years closely watched Agran and his Democratic political machine operate dictatorial control over the project didn’t fall for the empty hype. Their operatives received lucrative, no-bid contracts for a public park that didn’t yet exist. They wasted nearly $50 million on a park design plan that was laughably unattainable–a huge, man-made canyon and waterfalls!–the moment it landed on paper. Paranoid of being caught in various scandals, they treated park records with NSA-type secrecy. Agran conducted park spending business through his wife’s private email account. Despite claiming otherwise, they planned to use a special tax scheme to boost park coffers until Gov. Jerry Brown killed such tactics. They ran fake Republican candidates to dilute their opponents’ election strength. After years and years of spending several hundred million dollars without building a single, major promised feature, the Agran finally alliance lost power in 2012.

What happened? Agran and Beth Krom, his robotic sidekick, blame the economy on their wild spending spree that emptied park coffers. Nobody but the pair’s Kool-Aid drinkers ever bought that falsehood.

Continue reading at OC Weekly…