The Los Angeles Times has an editorial in Wednesday’s paper that addresses the Great Park that recognizes the Forensic Audit is basically what we’ve been saying all along — a partisan witch hunt. And the paper is calling for an independent investigation to see if in fact there is any wrongdoing as to how the money was spent. the Republican majority has managed to prolong the investigation of what is typically a 4 to 6 month endeavor to 19 months so the “results” of the audit and investigation come out just before the Fall elections — pure partisan politics on the taxpayer’s dime.
There were dramatic problems with the initial audit when the auditor failed to provide timely reports every 30 days — as specified in the contract — and never contacted the two of the three biggest subcontractors until the last two weeks before the report was to be filed. The auditor failed to send written requests for information which simply dragged this out. Now, with more than a million dollars of taxpayer money spent on a audit — which subpoenaed documents that one contractor had already sent to the city — who’s going to do a forensic audit on the forensic auditor?
From the editorial:
In its latest incarnation, the park will include a golf course, sports fields and other suburban amenities, totaling 688 acres. The rest of the land on the former base will be set aside for houses, commercial and industrial projects. This is a far cry from the earlier vision that called for a park about twice as big, with an artificial canyon and cultural center that included museums.
Much of Great Park’s shrinkage wasn’t the fault of Irvine City Councilman Larry Agran, the original and longtime leader of the park campaign, and his allies. The housing market went south during the recession, leading to reduced tax revenue. Then state legislation virtually eliminated community redevelopment agencies, which meant the city lost its main source of expected funding.
But the city appears to have had a role in some of the problems, and this has been the source of a recent public uproar both in Irvine and throughout Orange County. Close to $200 million in upfront developers’ fees was spent in the early stages of the park’s planning with too little to show for it. Allegations of cronyism and improper pressure on city staff arose. Irvine’s management of the project was the subject of two sharply critical grand jury reports, in 2006 and 2010.
Agran and his supporters call the audit a political ruse launched by their political enemies. There could be truth in that accusation; the Irvine City Council has been marked in recent years by sharp political divisions.
The Great Park was approved by Orange County voters, who are now owed answers. An independent entity bigger than Irvine — probably a county grand jury — should investigate the specific accusations of malfeasance and provide answers that the public can trust.
So clearly, the LA Times editorial board doesn’t believe the Republican majority’s investigation can be trusted. Council member Christina Shea has already graced the editorial with her comments (no references Gay Pride Parades at the Great Park though) demanding a correcting to “inaccurate information.” She writes:
I just read your editorial, it has incorrect information.
The park approval in November 2013 of 688, is only half the park property being built out presently.
We still have another 600 plus park acres to develop going forward.
The second design phase of the Great Park, which we will embark on, this fall, will begin a comprehensive review and planning process for a cultural terrace, amphitheater and other amenities .
The park never shrunk to 688 acres plus housing.
This editorial needs to be corrected.
Yes, after the final audit comes out, I do agree an outside agency must investigate the last 10 years of malfeasance and the corrupt leadership of Councilmember Agran and his political machine running the Great Park into financial insolvency .
Great Park Chairwoman
What Shea left out of her comments is “comprehensive review and planning process for a cultural terrace, amphitheater and other amenities” will all be offers up to FivePoint for approval because the city council majority and the planning commission have surrendered their obligations to drive the Park’s development and granted it to the developer who can write big checks for their political campaigns.
I’m pleased the LA Times recognizes the deep political divides and isn’t accepting everything that comes out of the mouths of Shea, Jeff Lalloway and Steven Choi as Gospel.