Most of us would say that $260 million is a lot of money to spend, especially when you have little of substance to show for it. But that’s the price Irvine has paid to develop 88 acres of the proposed 1,347-acre Great Park.
According to an audit compiled by the law firm Aleshire & Wynder, “We believe there are grounds for legal recovery” of some of the money, “including contract claims, claims under the False Claims Act and professional negligence should the [City] Council wish to explore them.”
Now, following the release of that audit and a second report, both on how the millions were spent over a decade, the Irvine council certainly does wish to explore options for recovery and has asked special counsel for ideas on how the city can get some of that money back. But the search for answers likely won’t need to go very far.
After all, the reports are ripe with examples that give an appearance of impropriety. Some contractors seem to have been simply overpaid for what they did, according to the report.
Forde & Mollrich, a public relations firm tasked with promoting the undeveloped park, saw its pay fluctuate wildly. One month, the firm received $50,000 and, another month, $100,000. Investigators say they found “no clear evidence” as to the reasoning.
Ken Smith, landscape architect for the park plan, may have gone months without performing any actual work, despite being paid $10,000 a month.