Never mind that city records made public by the Weekly show Dornan introduced ENCO executives to city officials in 2001, lobbied repeatedly on their behalf, and that someone other than the city paid for Dornan's flight to Arizona when Agran and staff inspected ENCO facilities. Mears and now Petracca say the mayor is lying.
"It's never been a 'What did the mayor know and when did he know it?' question for me," said Petracca. "Because Larry knew about Dornan's financial tie to the energy deal and could have objected but didn't."
Petracca says the mayor called him to a March 24 one-on-one meeting at an Irvine bakery after Mears voiced strenuous opposition to the Dornan-ENCO arrangement. "He wanted to know if I shared Chris' concerns about the whole utility thing," said Petracca. "At the time, Larry and Chris weren't speaking to each other and I had hoped to serve as a conciliator. You have to remember this is five months before Chris went public, and I still believed—erroneously as it turns out—that I could heal their relationship. I told him he could solve the problem by having Ed bow out of the energy deal, but he wouldn't budge. Larry was so angry that Chris had made this an issue."
During the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, Petracca says he asked Agran to consider the political ramifications if news leaked about Dornan and ENCO. "He kept saying he had no control over Ed," said Petracca. "And he told me that even if the public learned about it, his political opponents were too incompetent to successfully use it in the elections. I remember he said something like, 'We can deal with whatever they throw at us.' He didn't think it was a big deal."
Agran's miscalculations have proven costly. Not only has he lost control over the City Council with Mears now refusing to give him a three-vote majority, but also the scandals will likely affect the upcoming elections. Disillusionment with the mayor prompted Mears, Petracca and Goldstone, three liberals, to endorse Republicans Ward and Greg Smith. In coming weeks, they plan to send a letter explaining their decision to Irvine voters.
"I don't take pleasure in any of this," said Petracca, chairman of the Irvine planning commission. "I've considered Larry a friend for a long time. He's one of the smartest people around. But I'm flabbergasted that he won't tell the truth."