Irvine Council member Beth Krom, who knows more about the Great Park than anyone in Orange County but was never deposed by the investigators HSNO on the Forensic audit of the Great Park audit. And Beth systemically took apart her colleague Christina Shea for what Shea failed to do while managing the $1.7 million “audit” of the Great Park that wasn’t an audit.
From Krom’s piece:
The title of the report, “Poor Governance of the $1.7 Million Review of the Orange County Great Park Needlessly Compromised the Review’s Credibility” says it all. This was not an audit, and met the lowest possible standard for public accountability. As the “audit” budget grew from $240,000 to $1.7 million, the council went well beyond any reasonable expenditure of public funds for such a review. If tarnishing the city’s reputation at taxpayer expense with unfounded allegations and gratuitous comparisons to “the city of Bell” was their intent, then the subcommittee got what they paid for.
As noted in the State Auditor’s report, the two-member Audit Subcommittee operated outside public view and failed to properly update or seek authority from the City Council. They unilaterally hired, fired and extended contracts, many of which were sole source with no transparency or staff oversight.
After launching the review with allegations of sole-source contracts, work done without prior authorization and high cost contract extensions related to planning, design and construction of the Great Park, the subcommittee proceeded to employ those very practices. The State Auditor’s report revealed that, for reasons that could not be explained, the city altered its procurement process by awarding 12 bonus points to HSNO, the winning audit firm. That moved HSNO from third place to first place. HSNO’s initial $240,000 contract ballooned to $778,000 despite producing false facts in their preliminary report to suggest improprieties where none existed. The law firm of Aleshire & Wynder were then brought in by the subcommittee to “manage” HSNO’s review. They banked over $670,000.
So what did Irvine taxpayers get for $1.7 million? As my grandmother would say, they got “bupkis.” The review showed no funds misspent or unaccounted for. The review appears to have been designed to delegitimize the years of work done to build the initial park features and advance a “public park” vision. It also provided a smokescreen to allow the council to shift control of Great Park planning and development to private developers. Now, instead of a park rivaling Central Park or Balboa Park, we can look forward to a downsized, commercialized and corporatized “retail serving park” with “pay to play” sports fields, and none of the beauty and charm of other great metropolitan parks.\
From Shea’s account, this:
The City Council initiated an audit review of the prior decade of Great Park spending in January 2013. We retained outside legal counsel from Aleshire and Wynder, the legal team who exposed the fraud in the city of Bell, and retained the HSNO accounting firm, and began peeling back the layers of consulting redundancy and suggested Great Park mismanagement.
The council established a subcommittee of Councilman Jeff Lalloway and me to monitor the process and report to the public in public meetings. Depositions were posted online, for full transparency to the public.
As you can imagine, the beneficiaries of the $250 million were not happy. Consulting firms refused to produce documents, lawyered up and obfuscated at every opportunity. We ultimately were forced to use the city’s subpoena power to secure documents. What we thought would be a straightforward review of expenditures became a battle of lawyers driving up the cost and slowing down the process.
The JLAC offered, in our opinion, very subjective comments about our processes but found no wrongdoing with the subcommittee’s efforts or any criticism of the Great Park audit and its findings.
It incorrectly stated our procurement process in hiring the accountants, lawyers and retired judge was flawed. We have aggressively disagreed in our response.
The state audit of the Great Park audit found no violations of law, including open meeting laws, subpoena power, subcommittee governance and oversight and release of preliminary findings, to name a few.
While Ms. Shea acknowledges the JLAC offered subjective comments about city processes, she fails to acknowledge the city has agreed to several of the JLAC’s recommendations.
What Ms. Shea cannot explain is why Beth Krom was never deposed for the “audit” even thought she knows more about the Great Park than anyone and Ms. Shea would not hold Aleshire & Wynder accountable for issuing a preliminary report that was completely false, but the report designed to win an election instead of tell the truth.