Tony Rackauckas and Larry Agran's Cash-Corruption Connection

[Moxley Confidential] The Orange County DA owed the Irvine mayor's political machine $25,000, said no crime in the city

Thirteen years ago, Tony Rackauckas began his first term as Orange County District Attorney with a series of breathtaking ethical lapses. Rackauckas ordered the agency's organized-crime detectives to not investigate Newport Beach businessman Patrick N. DiCarlo, his fishing buddy and campaign chairman who had suspicious contacts with East Coast mafia associates. He looked the other way when Southern California apartment-complex magnate George Argyros, one of his ultra-wealthy campaign backers, cheated thousands of low-income tenants out of their security deposits. When British Petroleum's ARCO service stations ignored for a decade clean-up notices to fix more than 132 massive gas-storage leaks throughout the county, he let the company off without admitting its guilt or paying county residents a nickel for callously polluting our environment and jeopardizing our groundwater supply.

On the other hand, Rackauckas deserves genuine applause for more recent decisions. He ignored advice from his law-enforcement brethren and arrested unnecessarily lethal Fullerton cops in the gruesome Kelly Thomas killing. He withstood pressure to downplay the felony case against three well-connected characters in the infamous Haidl Gang Rape saga and made sure the unapologetic defendants went to prison. He even authorized a historic investigation into our local detention facilities and issued a bombshell, scathing report detailing rampant jail-deputy corruption.

The point is that you can never be sure if the Good Tony or the Bad Tony will show up. That lesson was once again apparent at a Nov. 19 central committee meeting of the Orange County Republican Party. The Republican DA came to apologize for trying to help Democrat Larry Agran defeat GOP-endorsed Steven Choi in the Irvine mayoral race two weeks earlier.

Rackin' his mind for an excuse
Joshua Sudok/OC Register pool photo
Rackin' his mind for an excuse

Details

As you might imagine, Rackauckas' election-eve robocall for Agran's campaign shocked and angered the county's Republican activists. They had been trying to topple the Democrat's 3-2 council majority control over Irvine for 12 frustrating years. That Agran believes a powerful, activist government—especially with him at the reins—should be the center of the community and that Republicans outnumber Democrats in the city only added to their anxiety.

Partisan politics wasn't the only motivation to knock off Agran, who is a master of looking sympathetic and grandfatherly when it suits his needs. The Chicago native created an Irvine political machine that doled out lucrative, no-bid city contracts to his personal consultants and allies. Businesses that deposited large sums of cash into his various political bank accounts won favorable city treatment. Elections were rigged to favor Agran, who put fake or decoy Republican candidates on ballots. The corruption might have outraged another district attorney, but Rackauckas let Agran roam free for a decade while alarmed citizens and journalists detailed abuse after abuse.

At the GOP meeting, the 69-year-old DA explained that he was "a bit hasty" in his decision to help Agran's campaign. In reality, Rackauckas insisted, he really didn't want him to win the race. Ponder that claim for a minute.

So far, we have two undeniable oddities: A DA who steadfastly won't investigate Agran's corruption and who, when Agran is frantically trying to keep power over Irvine and the multibillion-dollar Great Park project, tries to come to his rescue.

Hmmmm.

The situation is more puzzling when you consider that at the Nov. 19 meeting, Rackauckas unequivocally asserted he had been vigilantly watching Agran for any wrongdoing. This attempt to rewrite history is alarming. In fact, the DA has blocked repeated citizen complaints demanding the launch of a criminal grand jury probe.

Republican activist Allan Bartlett asked Rackauckas if he had any special relationship with Agran's political machine, especially Arnold Forde, the media-shy private consultant who grabbed a highly suspicious $120,000-per-month, no-bid contract for more than seven years to do publicity for a public park that still hasn't been built to spec. He adamantly denied it.

But the DA wasn't as forthcoming as he should have been. Forde and Rackauckas worked together as close political-campaign associates for as many as four years beginning in the 1980s. At the height of public cries to investigate Agran's corruption in 2004 and 2005, the two men shared a private lunch. The DA declined my request to outline what they discussed, but Rackauckas adviser Mike Schroeder described the meeting as "just social."

At the central committee meeting, Rackauckas oddly posed clueless that Forde is Agran's top consigliere. "I don't consider [Forde] an enemy or anything," the DA said in response to a question. "But I know he works for, uh, apparently for, uh, Larry Agran."

Why would Rackauckas—a lawman who claims he has been vigorously investigating Irvine corruption—pretend he wasn't sure of Forde's thoroughly documented, cozy relationship with Agran?

Was he trying to obfuscate his ties to Forde and Agran?

The DA didn't mention that in 2002, Agran and Forde came to his rescue by critically bolstering his re-election campaign against Wally Wade, a veteran, high-ranking prosecutor. Rackauckas had supported unpopular efforts of the aforementioned soiled apartment magnate Argyros to build an international airport at the mothballed El Toro Marine Corps Air Station near Irvine. Forde and Agran let the DA appear in widely distributed, pro-Great Park slate mailers (Taxfighters Voting Guide, a project of the Voter Education Project) and described him as a "vigorous" law enforcer solidly against the airport.

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6 comments
fixithair
fixithair

TRUTH.The whole truth and nothing but the truth is what we need to look closely at when considering re-electing Mr. Tony Rackauckas.There is a time for all good men to step aside and let another attorney that has shown himself capable to take over.

I have a fondness for sports but even I would consider it cruel to put an old horse that was once a grand champion on a race track.I'm not calling Mr. Rackauckas an old hag just that there are better choices to be had.

A possible reason Tony had no opponents in the past is because of the respect his colleagues have for the man (not a bad thing).In sports time demands retirement like that of Michael Jordan to whom many hated to see leave the COURT (basketball court that is).I'm sure that can also be true of the OCDA.

Think about it...even our county supervisors have to leave their seats after a couple of terms.Tony's had a good long run.Now is a good time to put the old war-horse out to pasture so we need not experience more of his lost competency and sound judgment.TRUTH

goldencody
goldencody

Most folks do not realize just how much corruption exists in Orange County Law Enforcement. When I hear words like hero used or applauding certain police actions it makes me think hard about just how dirty OC Cops can be. You actually have criminals wearing a badge and enforcing laws in the OC.  The rise of corruption in rank and file is very very disturbing on so many different levels.

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

Yea, Rackauckas was watching Agran very closely.  What a load of crap this is.  If that was the case why did the District Attorney allow Agran to skate on the case where his housekeeper was arrested for a felony white collar crime and Agran had her unarrested, the case never filed with the District Attorney and the report buried in the Internal Affairs file of the Police Department where the media could not get to it.  When  the material was sent to the Special Investigation Unit of the D.A.'s Office by concerned Officers at the Police Department, they refused to investigate it.

At minimum in this case there was a felony crime that went unpunished and a possible Obstruction of Justice by Agran.  At worst, the Police Report was changed without the originating Officer doing it, there was no follow up investigation and the case was never submitted to the District Attorney for review and filing.  In my thirty five years in law enforcement, I have never seen a case hadled as poorly as this one, and all for the sake of political power.  If that was watching Larry Agran, Mr. Rackauckas, I'd hate to think what people you aren't watching might be doing.  It is time for a new D.A. in Orange County.

thepotstirer
thepotstirer

Another great job!  Isn't anybody except the OC Weekly doing investigative reporting in Orange County any more?  This is a very disturbing story...

allenw2001
allenw2001

Wow!  How rotten can you get for not accurately reporting on FPPC Form 460 under Section F Accrued Expenses (Unpaid bills) is clearly violation of California Campaign finance laws??!!

18usc241
18usc241 topcommenter

@gtwest OC Weekly seems to be the only publication with a good handle on the corruption and criminality in this County. As for the law enforcement corruption here: think worse than Bernie Madoff; at least Madoff never tried to kill his victims to keep his trailer trash life going. 

 
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