O.C. REGISTER: Great Park Audit Cost Rises to $1.08 Million

By Kimberly Pierceall

IRVINE – Auditors investigating how more than $200 million was spent at the Great Park got another $330,000 to finish their report.

That brings the total to spend on the audit to $1.08 million, including prior legal costs. The Irvine City Council approved the budget adjustment 3-2 Tuesday with Councilmembers Larry Agran and Beth Krom voting against it.

The audit is expected to be finished by the end of August. The timing has been noted by dissenting council members, including Agran, who said it was a “political witch hunt masquerading as an audit.”

Also Tuesday, the council unanimously approved a resolution directing the city attorney to prepare the language for a November ballot measure on greater Great Park transparency. The Great Park board was winnowed in January 2013 from nine members representing the council and other areas and interests in Orange County to just the five-member council.

The proposed ballot measure will be brought back to the council for a vote at its next July 22 meeting.

“It may be things that we do now, but now they’re mandated,” said Councilman Jeff Lalloway, who proposed the initiative. The measure would also extend its current whistleblower protection for all city staff and officials to Great Park vendors.

The Great Park Corp.’s CEO Mike Ellzey, now an assistant city manager since the corporation’s operations were folded into the city, has the ability to enter into contracts up to $100,000 without council approval. Irvine City Manager Sean Joyce indicated that the ballot measure would do away with that.

Agran and Krom criticized the Great Park audit’s lack of transparency.

After the mayor cut off Agran during his comments about the audit, Agran filled out a public comment card and walked to the podium in front of the dais, causing the mayor to ask the city attorney if Agran could do that. He could.

Agran asked that the invoices for the auditor, law firm and retired judge be made available to the public.

“Let the transparency begin,” he said.

The city’s two-member audit subcommittee, made up of Lalloway and Councilwoman Christina Shea, has been the city’s main point of contact with the Newport Beach-based auditing firm Hagen, Streiff, Newton & Oshiro Accountants.

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…