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Great Park audit fees continue to grow

Taxpayers in Irvine are footing the bill for additional legal fees stemming from the Great Park audit, which was completed in March. An additional amount of up to $80,000 was approved by the Irvine City Council in order to continue its pursuit of potential improprieties released in the audit findings.

The council voted 3-1 for the budget amendment during a special joint meeting with The Great Park Board before the May 12 regular meeting. Councilwoman Beth Krom voted against the proposal. Councilwoman Lynn Schott was absent from the meeting.

The original $240,000 budget commissioned for the audit in 2013 has now ballooned to more than $1.4 million. The budget was amended previously with an additional $400,000 in January of 2014, another $333,000 in July of last year, with an extra $100,000 stipend for legal fees when the firm of Aleshire & Wynder was hired as special counsel.

The audit of more than $200 million in Great Park expenditures from 2005 to 2012 was originally projected to be completed in four months. The final report was submitted more than two years later after Newport Beach forensic accounting firm HSNO handed off its findings to Aleshire & Wynder.

Special Counsel Anthony Taylor conducted more than 20 depositions of city employees, subcontractors and city officials over the next several months. Long-time Irvine City Council member and former Mayor Larry Agran, who steered the Great Park project for five of the seven years in question, objected to his original subpoena and is now being sued by the city for contempt. Agran was voted out of office last November.

After failing to show up for a scheduled deposition on Feb. 25, Agran was deposed by Taylor on March 13 but refused to answer questions about Great Park subcontractors and whether they were also volunteer political campaign consultants.

Findings in the audit final report indicate the project was rife with budgetary mismanagement. Conclusions suggest the potential to recover some of the money paid to subcontractors for conflicts of interest, professional negligence and false claims.

The city’s lawsuit against Agran, filed on May 6, seeks a court order for compliance to further answer under oath, plus recovery of legal fees for this pursuit and the original February deposition Agran did not show up for.


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