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Irvine may issue subpoenas in Great Park audit

On the heels of preliminary findings in an audit of the Great Park that raised questions about the $200-million project’s finances, Irvine may start issuing subpoenas to get some answers.

The City Council is set to vote on a resolution Tuesday that would allow its attorneys to subpoena people and documents to help auditors continue their review — at a cost of $400,000.

During the course of their investigation, auditors said that they were “precluded from further analysis” and that several key players refused to speak with them.

According to a staff report, "Issuing subpoenas to witnesses and for documents may be necessary to complete the investigation."

Among other findings, the audit found that some contractors who were awarded low-bid contracts ultimately billed the city far more than originally estimated, in most cases because of change orders approved by the Irvine City Council.

In some instances, services were paid for twice, and some work done by a public relations consultant for individual council members was billed to the park, the report says.

Several key players refused to speak with auditors, the report notes, including architect Ken Smith, political strategy firm Forde & Mollrich, and a Great Park employee in charge of reviewing invoices.

The park was pitched to Orange County voters in 2002 as America's next great municipal park, a place that would rival Balboa Park in San Diego and San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

But more than $200 million later, only a small portion of the originally proposed 1,300-acre park has been built.

According to a Times analysis late last year, most of the tens of millions set aside for the Great Park went to plans, designs, administrative costs and consultants. Less than a fifth of the money went toward actual park construction.

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adolfo.flores@latimes.com

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