By R. Scott Moxley, OC Weekly
Until reality caught up to him last November and shattered his heavily concocted image as a good-government activist, Larry Agran served as the leader of a political machine that for a dozen years dictatorially controlled Irvine and the Orange County Great Park project.
The ugly reality includes Agran’s penchant for secrecy, cronyism, narcissism and mismanagement, especially at the Great Park, a noble idea the career politician slyly converted into a biennial election tool to keep his council alliance in power, a circumstance that allowed him to give $167,000 per month in no-bid, public-relations contracts to his own political operatives.
After skipping a scheduled February deposition and demanding conditions such as taxpayers must pay for at least two lawyers defending him as he dodges potential criminal charges, Agran finally sat on March 13 with Anthony R. Taylor, the Aleshire & Wynder attorney conducting an independent audit of Great Park shenanigans.
Not surprisingly, the failed 1992 presidential primary candidate’s paranoia emerged at the outset of the deposition, with Fred Woocher, one of Agran’s lawyers, asking if anybody not present in the room was listening via a wire. Taylor said no, and then had to entertain the same question two more times.
Next, Agran’s team encouraged Taylor to employ the California Public Records Act as a weapon for stalling journalists from reading the deposition for at least two weeks, claiming city officials would need 10 business days to find it.
“No,” Taylor replied. “You have to produce a public document that’s in the city’s possession, of this nature, when it’s requested. . . . If a member of the media, a member of the public, if they say, ‘You have this transcript in your possession; I’m walking into City Hall, and I want to look at it,’ they have the absolute right to look at it.”
With such preliminary, Nixonian worries out of the way, Agran declared his commitment to “transparency” and tried to convert his deposition into a commercial of his greatness, even though he and Democratic Party allies Beth Krom and Sukhee Kang spent $200 million in taxpayer funds at the Great Park without building one major facet of the project they’d originally proposed.
But Taylor’s first major question wiped the arrogance off Agran’s face: Were you as chairman of the Great Park aware of prior audit findings by Lend Lease Corporation (formerly Bovis Lend Lease) detailing government contractor “billing irregularities”–contractors selected by Agran, contractors that contributed to Agran’s campaigns, contractors that routinely piled on “change order” costs to tasks.
“No,” Agran replied.
“The concern here I have, Mr. Agran, is that this letter from [Lend Lease’s] attorney talks about . . . millions of dollars being paid due to billing irregularities and abuses by the [Agran-selected] Design Studio.”
Agran disputed any knowledge of serious irregularities, blamed questionable disbursements “allegations” on his desire to have “layers of checking and double-checking and triple-checking” of spending, and grew terse when pressed, saying, “I’ve told you what I know.”