By Matt Morrison
A push to have the audit of the Orange County Great Park examined in the Legislature hit a second wall Wednesday when Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) abruptly withdrew her request before a meeting of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee in Sacramento.
Gonzalez had proposed an investigation at the joint meeting in April at the urging of construction design firm Gafcon, a Great Park subcontractor headquartered in her district. At that time, the item was denied approval, despite a 9-3 overall vote in favor, because the request did not have the required balance of at least four yes votes by both the state Assembly and Senate members of the committee.
In January 2013, the Irvine City Council approved conducting the audit of the Great Park work at an original budget of $240,000. A subcommittee of Irvine council members Christina Shea and Jeffrey Lalloway was charged with overseeing the audit. The final report was presented in March after more than two years and at a cost in excess of $1.2 million.
The audit report concluded that the construction of the park was rife with mismanagement and budgetary irresponsibility, noting that more than $200 million had been spent on the project between 2005 and 2012. Findings left the door open for legal action to recover money paid to contractors based on potential professional negligence, false claims or conflicts of interest.
Gafcon, Newport Beach public relations firm Forde & Mollrich and former Irvine Mayor Larry Agran, who oversaw the Great Park project for five of the seven years in question, are all central figures in the report. After 28 years as a City Council member, including three terms as mayor, Agran was voted out of office last November.
Gonzalez argued in April that the audit process may have been drawn out for election purposes and that Gafcon’s reputation and business suffered significantly as a result. At the same hearing, Gafcon principal Yehudi Gaffen testified that his company “lost millions” and “did not win one job in 2014 because of this so-called audit.”