Former Irvine Mayor Larry Agran has been told to appear in court after failing to show up for a scheduled deposition for an audit of the more than $200 million spent planning and promoting the Great Park.
Agran, who was served with a subpoena in December and again in February, never appeared for a deposition.
Council members this week voted to seek a Superior Court order to compel the former mayor and councilman to testify. The city is also attempting to recover legal fees from Agran.
The audit into the Great Park spending has dragged on since late 2013. The city originally budgeted $450,000 for the audit, but the cost has now ballooned to $1.2 million.
The Great Park was originally sold to voters as a unique opportunity to transform the retired El Toro Marine Base into an enormous municipal park that would rival Balboa Park in San Diego, or even New York City’s Central Park.
But after years of planning and promoting, the city had little to show for its efforts. A first phase of the park is now being built by a developer who is constructing a master-planned community around the rim of the parkland.
So far, more than 20 contractors and city officials have been deposed in the audit.
"I think it's very important to note, no other witness in this audit has failed to appear at their deposition in violation of a subpoena," said attorney Anthony Taylor, who is representing the city.
Agran was served with a subpoena on Dec. 23, a little more than a month after he lost a reelection bid, ending decades on the city council.
Agran responded with a 10-page objection filed on Jan. 15 stating that he was not personally served with the subpoena and arguing that some requested documents were already in the City Council's control.
Taylor said his office tried to work with Agran to set a date for his deposition, but indicated the former mayor was evasive and insisted he wanted his lawyer present and that the city should pay for his legal fees.
A second subpoena was issued Feb. 12, setting the deposition date for Feb. 25. Agran responded with an email six days later indicating he had a scheduling conflict and requested a later date. Without such a concession, neither Agran nor his lawyer showed up for the deposition, which was nonetheless recorded and filed on the city record.
"The whole thing was manifestly unfair," Agran said later. "It was too short a time to prepare answers for events that transpired over eight years."
No date for Agran's court appearance has been set.
Matt Morrison writes for Times Community News