By Sarah de Crescenzo , O.C. Register
IRVINE – A lack of a realistic, detailed budget was among the factors that doomed the Great Park project as it was originally envisioned, auditors and attorneys told the Irvine City Council on Tuesday.
Once slated to be completed by 2011 at a cost of $401 million, as of 2013, more than $250 million had been spent to develop 88 acres of the 1,347-acre former El Toro Marine base. That number has since increased to $260 million.
“The park got off to the wrong start right from the beginning,” said Christopher Money, a partner with Hagen, Streiff, Newton & Oshiro, Accountants, the firm hired by the council in June 2013 to find out where that money went.
Law firm Aleshire & Wynder and a retired judge were brought in last year to assist the company in its investigation.
The team found that $95 million was spent on operations and administration; about $94 million for “soft costs,” such as design fees; and $61.8 million on “hard costs,” such as construction and engineering.
Depositions of more than 23 people and a review of the park’s finances didn’t reveal any criminal activity, but the firms said personal connections between former Councilman Larry Agran and some of the contractors and consultants on the project have raised the appearance of impropriety.