Larry Agran's Irvine Idiots

[Moxley Confidential] Even after the release of a damning audit, the longtime political boss and his apologists still think all's swell at the Great Park

Larry Agran's Irvine Idiots
Bob Aul

In a Jan. 14 reaction to the latest scathing, independent audit of his financial mismanagement at the proposed Orange County Great Park, Larry AgranIrvine's legendary Democratic Party boss—played the shocked, wounded victim like only a 35-year, career politician could. Agran pouted, acted confused and tossed onto underlings all accountability for any possible "very disturbing irregularities." Though he's the reigning Southern California king of unapologetic cronyism and backroom deals, he declared himself a champion of "financial propriety."

The 50-page summary of the recently completed forensic audit by Hagen, Streiff, Newton & Oshiro (HSNO) details how Agran spent years bungling the Great Park project and diverting large sums to enrich players in his own political machine. One of the more egregious findings was that he'd handed three of his campaign operatives at least $174,500 per month—that's not a typo: per month!—in no-bid, government contracts for alleged public-relations tasks at a park that still hasn't celebrated a real grand opening. For that malfeasance alone, Irvine residents should boot Agran and his squawking council sidekick, Beth Krom, from public office.

But if the tainted spending doesn't outrage, perhaps you might not like Agran's hamfisted attempt to argue this HSNO audit is irrelevant by rewriting history and reshaping reality. Several years ago, he dismissed another disturbing audit detailing secrecy and puzzling spending by equating himself to a modern-day Frederick Law Olmsted, who had to be "creative" financially. We now know Agran's imagination has run wild.

For 14 years, he has been promising "the most extraordinary park" built in the 21st century at the site of the mothballed El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, and by gosh, it's there, Auntie Em. Just close your eyes, click the heels of your ruby-red slippers three times, and you won't see the vast emptiness of Agran's non-accomplishments. Close your eyes extra-hard, and you can see in dreamy haze the promised stately museums on par with the Smithsonian, NFL-worthy sports stadium, college campuses, war memorial, wildlife park, seemingly endless hiking trails, lakeside amphitheater, boardwalk and a 2.5-mile, manmade canyon.

With his eyes open at the public hearing on the audit, Agran—who made a quixotic run to win the Democratic Party's 1992 presidential nomination—tossed truth aside and incredibly declared, "We've delivered!"

In March 2003, Agran guaranteed to me on the record that Orange County's Great Park would not only be more impressive than San Diego's Balboa Park (1,200 acres) and New York's Central Park (843 acres), but also massively larger, with 2,800 acres of open, public "parkland," and he got pissy that anyone would question his numbers.

For years, he and his allies employed those false claims and called their political candidacies "The Great Park Team" to keep control of the city, as well as the $1.6 billion project.

Here's the reality: Not a single major item of Agran's park master plan—a plan he wasted several years and $50 million to concoct—exists. And get a load of these additional facts: In 2006, the size of the project was chopped in half to 1,347 acres. It has now dwindled to a mere 220 acres. In Agran's view, that is "progress" that critics of his corruption—people he calls "gas bags"—refuse to appreciate.

"I'm proud of what we've achieved," he said, and then noted the audit's findings of incompetence, secrecy and malpractice "just don't compute."

(Fittingly, councilman Jeff Lalloway observed it's time to drop "great" from the title and call it what it is: just another government park plan.)

There's no mystery about the cause of the park's shrinkage. Its coffers are relatively empty after Agran and Krom (and their onetime third council ally, Sukhee Kang) spent more than $133 million and somehow forgot to build the promised park. Krom angrily defended all the wasteful contracts to the well-connected, campaign operatives as necessary, pre-park construction "community outreach." She slammed the audit—including sworn statements that Agran secretly ordered staff to allow his buddies to convert fixed-fee contracts into lucrative, open-fee arrangements. For example, four firms offered to complete various Great Park tasks for $5.1 million, won the jobs by placing the lowest qualified bids, and then quietly filed dozens and dozens of "change orders" that inflated their pay to $14.825 million. The audit reasonably labeled the tactic both excessive and questionable.

"Oh, my God, are we on an HBO suspense thriller?" mocked a sour-faced Krom to the auditor who'd presented the findings at the Irvine City Council session.

Dan Chmielewski—a PR man by day, as well as an unrepentant defender of Agran/Krom corruption and co-owner of TheLiberalOC.com—fretted in a Jan. 13 blog post that the audit revelations might influence voters in upcoming city elections. Chmielewski opined that the real villains who emptied the Great Park coffers aren't Agran and Krom, who unquestionably controlled spending from 2002 to the end of 2012. Instead, he wants the public to believe the people who "wasted" park funds were council members who were in the minority and powerless during the entire period, Christina Shea and Steven Choi. According to Chmielewski, the Republican majority that took control of the city in 2013 and ordered the audit should not have hired HSNO—who performed forensic auditing in the ENRON and Bernie Madoff scandals. He says they should have instead used Agran-controlled city bureaucrats to write the report because they have "objectivity."

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28 comments
reddbrique
reddbrique

I'm glad the $174,000.00 was only diverted. With all this confusion it would have been really easy for someone to have stolen it!!!  Sheeesh, that was a close one!

So does anyone have any idea when the $174,000.00 will make it back home?

I'll look for it every night when I put on the porch lite for Jimmy.
Grandma Hoffa

sandj.williams
sandj.williams

Five years ago or more as the recipient of PR releases costing up to $5 a pop to mail and a heck of lot more to produce, as the editor of a local La Habra paper, I was well aware something wasn't passing the smell test in the Great Park creation.  Why would North County residents be that interested in something that did not even exist yet?  Why didn't Irvine residents care that such luxurious, and they were luxurious and more suitable to introducing a movie, PR releases being produced regularly.  


As a local government enthusiast, I wondered where were the Irvine citizens.


former newspaper editor

billbartell
billbartell

WOW, Is there any chance area residents can get some REAL news around here ??? This " hit piece " is just the ramblings of a not-so-smart political operative in the press rewriting history, as usual. . . These folks tried to make something wonderful happen for their community & the economy messed things up & slowed them down. END of story. . . .

billbartell
billbartell

WOW, Is there any chance area residents can get some REAL news around here ??? This " hit piece " is just the ramblings of a not-so-smart political operative in the press rewriting history, as usual. . .

jimgilchrist
jimgilchrist

OMG!  Journalist R. Scott Moxley is attacking a Democrat!   This is shocking.


I thought Democrats were exempt from attack or criticism by journalists.   


Jim Gilchrist, Founder and President, The Minuteman Project

BBAIN
BBAIN

I don't know about you guys, but as long as they don't put in an airport, I don't really give a s*** what they do with that land.  Sure - the original vision of the great park was blown up to convince voters to vote for the park over an airport (I'm probably paraphrasing previous points made by the Weekly).  Agran has done a lot for the city of Irvine over the years - namely defeating the airport.  So far, it seems as though there is no smoking gun here.  Agran is not the only politician who has rewarded campaign contributors with lucrative contracts.  BTW - I'm not pro-Agran... I voted for Choi.  If there has been any actual illegal activity, put Agran and Krom in the slammer. 

JJOK
JJOK

Ask yourself why local law enforcement....Like Irvine PD....has not investigated the corruption of the mayor, city council, city bureaucrats, and Agranistas? Maggard was never appointed Chief of Police by Agran and the City Council as per California Code. Maggard did not file his oath of office (again as per California Code) until 10 years after he illegitimately took position as "Chief." The Irvine PD has been operating under an abandoned office of Chief for how long now? And you wonder why local law enforcement has blinders? FBI is looking into this one as well....supposedly. We shall see if they continue to ignore the 8000 lb Orange elephant in the room and how it got there.

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

Scott, excellent opening salvo on the "Not So Great Park" fiasco.  As the Council majority moves forward with granting subpoena power to the auditors, we can anticipate many additional sorry details to be revealed.  The unfortunate part to this entire mess is that there continues to be reluctance of Federal and Local Law Enforcement officials to remove the blinders and get involved.  The corruption in Irvine and at the Park could easily surpass that previously seen in the City of Bell.  Keep up the great investigative reporting on this important topic.    

Michael Moon
Michael Moon

We got a gang of three in Costa Mesa. Santana has it's merry crew. Anaheim has it's lifers. Don't start with the Supes or the DA's office.

henrygattis
henrygattis

Careful "thanksfortheemail", you are likely to get a surprise in the mail like me and Mill. Or perhaps a call to your boss, or simply have your kids stalked on Facebook.

The guy is a creep. ANYBODY who dresses up with his 20 something son as a comic book figure is wacked.

Look up Rispardal settlement and  Alex Chmiliewinski and you get a good idea of how he can afford his "Northwood" home, when he doesn't work.

Whackadoodle
Whackadoodle

LOL they Developers are having a Heyday because we let them take it. It should have been  a Airport like it was but some well connected developers got a hold of it.

Dragging feet is part of it so in time people will forget or become complacent and they get a trillion dollars of land for free.

Politics is all about what you can Scam always has been.....

thanksfortheemail
thanksfortheemail

Dan C. is completely full of hot air.  That guy loves to sit around and mentally masturbate all day long about this stuff.  He is so full of himself.  When I used to have a radio show years ago, he would tell me any chance he had how wrong I was and what a fabulous media guy he was.  He would spend hours ranting about what a wonderful radio talk show host he was.  And how much more experience he had than me.  It was a hoot to listen to him.  He was such a gas bag.  I always wondered, "Gee Dan, if you are so awesome, how come you don't have a radio show on a big network?"  I would even wonder, "Gee Dan, if you are so great, how come you are only a blogger?  Why doesn't the Register or the Weekly hire you?"


Dan C. is nothing more than a political hack.  He is no different or better than the likes of Matt "Gerbil" Cunningham.  Lies are part and parcel to his world.  He would fall on the sword for Agran and Krom.  He would fall on the sword for any Democrat.  Just like Cunningham would fall on the sword for any Republican.  Dan C. is a has-been.  A relic of a forgotten past.  He is a nobody.


When you realize who and what Dan C. is, then it makes understanding his motives easy.  Once you understand there is nothing of honor behind his motives, then it makes you no longer fear what he says.  And once you no longer fear his words, he becomes useless and without meaning.  White noise in the background.  It's there, but easily ignored. 

steelgolf
steelgolf

@billbartell  Bill, as a project manager in the construction industry the Great Park is a Great Cluster F**K. To have spent that much money, over that period of tim, and have nothing to show for it is unbelievable. In the private sector Agran would have been fired long ago. Now the taxpayers are at the mercy of the housing developer (former Lennar executive I think) because of the money Agran pissed away. He was clearly out of his league dealing with such a project and should have asked for professional assistance.

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

@billbartell Bill clearly you are an Agranista and have been overindulging in the kool aid?  The only thing Larry Agran has tried to do wonderful for Irvine during the past twenty years is extend his power and influence, at the expense of others.  This alleged "hit piece" is just the tip of the ice berg that long time residents have known about for years.  Finally, the chickens are starting to come home to roost and the Wheel of Karma is rolling around.  Stay tuned for the remaining chapters in the soon to be best seller, "Just Another Day In Paradise."  

rscottmoxley
rscottmoxley topcommenter

@billbartell  Oh, sure, "Bill." The "economy" made Larry Agran, Beth Krom and Sukhee Kang divert $174,500 per month in critical Great Park public funds to three of their private campaign operatives. Given that you're barking precisely from Agran's lame talking points, you raise a question: Did Larry also type your comment?

ABartlett
ABartlett

Jim, Scott has been exposing Larry Agran's Great Park corruption for 10 years. As far as him going after Republicans, are you mad at him for exposing what Mike Carona did? Are mad at him for exposing all the crony capitalism by Curt Pringle? Are you mad at him for exposing former Assemblyman Mike Duvall? I myself applaud Scott Moxley. He has an almost de facto monopoly on investigative journalism here in OC because no one else seems to want to do this type of valuable work.

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

@BBAIN Hold that thought about the slammer.  U.S. Attorney are you listening or do you still  have the blinders on?  

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

@JJOK First off, a Police Chief is not hired by the City Council in any place in Orange County.  The Police Chief in Irvine was selected and hired by the City Manager, in this case Sean Joyce.  Dave Maggard had been the Deputy Chief under Mike Berkow and was promoted when he left for Los Angeles in 2003.  Chief Maggard was given his oath of office by the Irvine City Clerk before assuming his current position and I am confident any paperwork required was completed.  The State Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training is very thorough in checking sworn Police personnel and assuring all requirements are met.  You are out to lunch on comments about Dave Maggard "illegitimately" taking the position.  Chief Maggard reports directly to the City Manager and not the Council.  The City Manager of course, is hired by, reports to and serves at the pleasure of three of five City Council votes in Irvine. Prior to a year ago, that meant Larry Agran and the gang.  As I recall, the City Manager has a contract which runs for several more years.


For obvious conflict of interest reasons, the local Police Department's in Orange County do not investigate political corruption cases on local politicans.  Criminal investigations, "Yes" but corruption cases, "No."  Those are usually referrred to the Orange County District Attorney's Office. I am confident that Chief Maggard followed that process if there were allegations of local corruption presented to him.  


That said, many of us, especially those who have seen the underbelly of the Agranista beast over the years have wondered why Larry Agran continues to be the "Teflon Man?"  Numerous requests have been made for investigations from both the United States Attorney and the Orange County District Attorney to no avail.  With the District Attorney, many people believe he turned a blind eye to Larry Agran because of his Republican BFF's have been feeding from the gravy train at  Great Park.  That however is speculation, not fact.  What is really needed is for the U.S. Attorney to direct the FBI to step in and initiate a Criminal Investigation of corruption at the both the City of Irvine and Great Park.  Those guys are experts at what they do and chances are very good that we would see people being led from City Hall in handcuffs.  Well, one can hope anyway.     

18usc241
18usc241 topcommenter

@ltpar Hey, we finally agree on something.

jimgilchrist
jimgilchrist

@ABartlett @ABartlett@ABartlett@ABartlett  Al, Not mad.  Just wary of the real intentions of journalists.  They can be as corrupt as the persons they indict with their rhetoric.  So much of journalism today is outright propaganda aimed at discrediting  and/or distroying the target of the writer that only a fool would believe everything he or she reads in newspapers, blogs, etc.  


Of course, being the repeated and ongoing target of deliberate and grossly irresponsible propaganda (outright lies deliberately presented as truth) by the OC Register's Frank Mickadeit has certainly reinforced my mistrust of most journalists.  In my opinion, dirty journalist Frank Mickadeit gives me all the proof I need to challenge anything a news journalist writes.  


I expect the media to be the watchdog of government,for sure. But who will be the watchdog of corrupt journalists?


You can praise Moxley all you want, but that does not make him any less corruptible than the praises of pedophile priests by Bishop Mahoney made those priests any less corrupted.


The first casualty of propaganda is the truth, Mr. Bartlett.  The next casualty is the victim of a witch-hunting lynch mob who foolishly believe the propaganda.  


Jim Gilchrist

BBAIN
BBAIN

@ltpar@BBAINYou're a long time Irvine resident as well, no?  I assume you were against the airport as well?  My parents moved from Texas to I-Town when I was 7, which was just under 30 years ago.  Each time I see a new apartment community being constructed (which is frequent these days), I say "wait a minute - slow the f*** down."  But I'm getting off the subject.  Agran did a lot to make this the city it is, and the top-notch schools, and the beautiful shopping centers (not to knock other cities, but we actually have trees and flowers around our shopping centers), etc.  Again, throw the book at him if he has committed any actual crimes.

jimgilchrist
jimgilchrist

@barackzero  @barackzero  I am targeted by dirty journalists and delusional loud-mouths all the time with accusations of being the quintessential racist, bigot, xenophobe, hater of mankind, Nazi and KKK lover, murderer (served in Vietnam War), psycho, gay transvestite, mindless zombie, fraud, thief, embezzler, etc…and the litany of bogus epithets goes on and on.  


But, that is what dirty journalists do…cloud reality and the truth with fictional and unproven accounts of what they "want" the target of their wrath to be.  That has been my endless complaint about the Orange County Register's Frank Mickadeit ever since he deliberately wrote (repeatedly. like in six editorial colums) that I was essentially conducting a criminal enterprise from within the Minuteman Project.  Mickadeit, according to his commentaries, relied on a long-time friend of his for the "mis-information." 


Coincidentally, I was suing his so-called friend in Superior Court at the time and was awarded around $80,000 in judgments by Judge Wilkinson. 


I've always wondered if Frank Mickadeit's professionally corrupt conduct was payback for justifiably suing his friend.


The favorable outcome of the law suits seemed to me to be irrefutable proof that Frank Mickadeit deliberately wrote lies for a naive and gullible public that he thought would interpret his balderdash as truth.


Frank Mickadeit, and Scott Moxley, or any dirty journalist, know they are lying to the public, and they purposely avoid asking the targets of their hatred for a rebuttal to the false claims made about them.  God forbid that their targets ever have the opportunity to respond to false claims made about them!  Why, that would relegate their writing to the heap of garbage that it is. 


I remember in my newspaper reporter days back in the early 70s that whenever a newspaper writer conducted him or herself in that reprehensible manner they were immediately fired.  Nowadays, firing of dirty journalists only happens at the highest levels of national print and broadcast journalism, almost never at the local levels.  


Unfortunately, the first casualty of propaganda is the truth. And the truth is what most audiences want, whether they are liberals, conservatives, vile left-wing dissidents, or mean-spirited right-wing whackos.



Jim Gilchrist, Founder and President, The Minuteman Project


barackzero
barackzero

Moxley, your vile and reprehensibly dishonest cheap shot, characterizing Jim Gilchrist as a racist is vintage liberalism after the fashion of Larry Agran, whom you just toasted.  Shame on you, sir.

jimgilchrist
jimgilchrist

@rscottmoxley @jimgilchrist  


I think you have my organization confused with the California Coalition for Immigration Reform (CCIR).  Actually, you sound like one of their goose-stepping members.  If not a member, I am sure their Machiavellian leader Vaughn Becht would love to bring you on board.  He's every bit as misquided as you are.  They probably need someone to drive the steam roller in their quest to run down brown-skinned people.  


BTW, I don't drink hard liquor.  Never had a taste for it.   However, let's make a deal. I will stop drinking wine or beer as soon as you enter a rehabilitation clinic to deal with your meth addiction.  


Jim Gilchrist, President, The Minuteman Project 

rscottmoxley
rscottmoxley topcommenter

@jimgilchrist Hey, Jim! You might have a chance of sounding sober if you pour more tonic and less gin into your dozen daily cocktails. Have you or your robots run over more brown skinned people in parking lots as a show of nationalism?

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

@BBAIN @ltpar  I have known Larry Agran since 1978 and the man you see today is not the man we knew back then.  As Irvine Police Association President, I actualy supported him in his Council Campaign efforts in the early years.  I took a lot of heat from my fellow Officers in the start, but after several good contracts, they shut up.  As Agran's power grew, the man changed.  The old saying, "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely" has been alive and  well in Irvine.  Yes, in the early years, Larry Agran did do a lot of good things for Irvine including blocking the airport and helping put in place a Master Planned Community.  Then he changed and anyone who didn't agree with him, or jump to his tune ended up in the gutter with their throats cut.  It is now time for the Wheel of Krarma to roll around and for Larry to reap what he has sowed.  I for one will look forward to that day.    

 
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