Larry Agran the Leech

[Moxley Confidential] Insider blames Great Park fiasco on corruption and incompetence

In January 2008, Larry Agran—the leader of a three-council-member, Democratic alliance that controlled the city of Irvine for more than half a decade—desperately needed to enlist outside professional help to manage what had spiraled out of control: plans to build the Orange County Great Park, then one of California's largest public-works projects.

But there was a problem.

Agran, a career politician who had no clue how to build a massive public park despite his promises otherwise, didn't just crave a competent CEO for the $1.6 billion project. The county's living liberal icon with frightening Nixonian tendencies hoped the park would be an unbreakable monument to his legacy, so he needed someone who would obey his wishes, no matter how ridiculous or shady.

Do as I say, do as I do
Meranda Carter
Do as I say, do as I do


Excluding the four other elected representatives on the council, as well as the other eight members of the Great Park's Board of Directors, Agran met Mike Ellzey at an Irvine Denny's off the 5 freeway on Sand Canyon Avenue.

Ellzey's background with private corporations, at a university and as CEO of the Golden Gate Park Concourse Authority made him a suitable candidate for the Great Park job. Demonstrating his dictatorial sensibilities that allowed him to dismiss the participation of his colleagues, Agran unilaterally offered Ellzey a taxpayer-funded job worth more than $175,000 annually.

Of course, there was a catch.

The CEO job would remain vacant. Ellzey was invited to take a government post that Agran conjured up on the spot: deputy CEO. Irvine's top Democrat wanted to see how far he could trust the city's newest employee.

As I'd reported in detail for years before this secret Denny's powwow, Agran's public pronouncements about alleged strides in developing the Great Park had been a sham masking brazen shenanigans. Paranoid of the public learning more about his antics, he watched Ellzey for six months and—satisfied he could control him—elevated the outsider to the CEO post.

Yet, given this was Agran's world—a theater of endless, conniving plots that would impress Shakespeare—Ellzey quietly learned he'd become CEO of nothing. He didn't really answer to the Great Park board or the City Council. He answered to Agran and two Great Park subcontractors: Arnold Forde (of Forde and Mollrich) and Yehudi Gaffen (of Gafcon Inc.), two of the Democrat's pals who've taken millions of dollars in diverted park funds for no-bid, consulting contracts.

In a sworn, June 18 deposition made public on July 21 as part of a probe into why Agran and his political allies spent $200 million in park funds with very little to show, Ellzey talked about his first realization something was terribly wrong in Irvine.

Scanning budget items when he took the job in 2008, he saw that Forde, Agran's chief political consultant, was receiving a $100,000-per-month retainer, allegedly to do public relations for a park that didn't exist.

"I remember as though it was yesterday," he told Anthony R. Taylor, the private attorney representing the city in its probe of the Great Park. Shocked, Ellzey approached two veteran Great Park managers and asked, "'What is this $100,000 a month for Forde and Mollrich?' And they told me it was for public relations. And I said, 'We've got to reduce that. I mean, that's way too much.'"

The response was memorable.

"And they literally laughed," said Ellzey. "I asked them, 'Why are you laughing?' [They replied], 'Good luck on that.'"

Frustration mounted.

"I didn't know at the time, but here I was, new guy coming in, starting to make changes because it was now my shop, and one of the things I wanted to change was how could we possibly be using $100,000 a month for public relations?" Ellzey testified.

When other experienced consultants offered to take the Forde and Mollrich monthly contract for $15,000, Ellzey tried to get Agran, Councilwoman Beth Krom—Agran's whiny, robotic sidekick—and Forde to downsize the deal, but even his suggestion to lower the contract to $50,000 per month met seething anger.

"And so I knew exactly how, how strong and powerful Forde and Mollrich were," Ellzey said. "How connected they were to Larry Agran and how powerful Larry Agran was as an individual, and don't even think of messing with it because you will get smothered if you even try."

It also weighed on Ellzey that, though a brilliant strategist, Forde acted like a "Mafioso" and "threatened to come after [his job]," according to Taylor's deposition transcript.

During regular city hearings, Ellzey says, he "was [repeatedly] put in a position of publicly justifying a $100,000 a month" deal, which he called "low points for me as a public executive."

He recalled during Taylor's inquiry, "If pressed, I could never justify that [Forde and Mollrich] brought that much value. . . . So, somebody was making a lot of money."

Agran's Democratic machine, slyly renamed "The Great Park Team," couldn't operate in such a fashion unless the voters of Irvine ignorantly kept it in power, and Ellzey's bombshell deposition sheds new, insider light on that scam.

Instead of focusing on building the Great Park they'd promised, Agran and Forde regularly manipulated the park's budget and schedule to trick voters into a false sense of security. "The project team was also under extreme pressure to deliver projects in advance of Irvine's elections," testified Ellzey. "Project scopes were designed and scheduled to be completed in advance of the bi-annual elections, and Arnold Forde was the enforcer of these project dynamics, and Yehudi Gaffen was the implementer of the program."

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sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

you need not go "all the way back to" to "nixonian"( though its respected)

when you have a present day abuser of the Constitution, in Obama , who in fact makes

Nixon look like a civil libertarian 


Well, I at least give some credit for Anaheim their train station is getting built, maybe they will take some of the office jobs away from Irvine since the trains will be closer to Anahiem's downtown than Irvine's. The Great Park takes for ever and lots of money wasted.

fishwithoutbicycle topcommenter

It's funny how some people like to rant about how social welfare programs are supposedly bankrupting this great opposed to our tax dollars being used to line the pockets of corrupt politicians? As a taxpayer, I'd much rather pay for school lunches and health care for children than fill the coffers of the likes Agran and his cronies. Pardon my bleeding heart.


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>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>    w­w­w.P­A­Y­R­A­P­.c­o­m

sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter


1) NOT "supposedly" 

they are in fact

2) and I agree 

if there was/is no choice ( which there is) I'd rather feed the children etc

but therein lies the catch:

in order to have a regulatory /socialist system the pockets of the regulators aka politicians 

must be lined

its not a "bleeding heart" when it makes sense


@milithomas7 You might work from home but it ain't on google, unless that's what you call your bed 

fishwithoutbicycle topcommenter

@sweetliberty17761776 @fishwithoutbicycle 

1) Social welfare programs make up a small fraction of the national budget but are always the first thing put on the chopping block when cuts "must" be made.

2) In this particular case, I fail to see how lining Larry Agran's pockets has benefited anyone...except for a chosen few. And it annoys me how the rest of us who might need any kind of public assistance are subject to intense scrutiny and even audits to verify where the money is going and Agran gets carte blanche. Is that fair?

sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

@fishwithoutbicycle @sweetliberty17761776

1) cancer starts out small , too

and just b/c social programs are dwarfed ( not saying it is but lets say it is) by other programs would not take away the facts as already stated

2) thats how he gets his pockets lined

first the voters / enough of them , have to agree that socialism is better than capitalism 

then that regulatory /socialist mentality allows him to get thsoe pockets lined

and think


fishwithoutbicycle topcommenter

@sweetliberty17761776 @fishwithoutbicycle 

1) I'm sorry you view social welfare programs as a "cancer" you feel that way about veterans benefits too? 

2) This isn't about "capitalism" VS "socialism"...this is about some rich pig of an elected official outright stealing from the taxpayers and yet he hasn't seen a day in jail. If I steal from my fellow taxpayers in the form of taking public assistance I don't need or lying on my tax returns you can bet your bottom dollar I'd be in handcuffs facing criminal charges. It's sheer hypocrisy.

sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

@fishwithoutbicycle @sweetliberty17761776

1) thank you AGAIN

for making my point


anyone who works should NOT BE FORCED TO PAY FOR OTHERS

volunteer ? yes

but force, like you like, no

2) its always about capitalism vs socialism

he gets away with it b/c self serving voters want their freebies

and so they elect people who also want their freebies

see how that works

fishwithoutbicycle topcommenter

@sweetliberty17761776 @fishwithoutbicycle 

So I as the taxpayer don't earn my keep by simply paying taxes? There are many things my taxes pay for that I don't receive direct benefit from (ie veterans services)...but I accept this because there is something more important than my own personal benefit: the common good. What "common good" comes from politicians swindling the American people? And why is it unacceptable for an individual to occasionally ask for help from a government they support with their hard-earned money while at the same time a philandering politician like Agran can essentially steal it in front of their faces without consequence?

sweetliberty17761776 topcommenter

@fishwithoutbicycle @sweetliberty17761776

you're a leftist so no one can un-confuse you

thats why socialists hate capitalism

its straight forward and any wrongs are brought in front of a jury

in socialism its regulations aka bribes cronyism etc

so that there is confusion and people can then bicker and when confusion reigns 

the MANIPULATORS ( hint hint) feel more comfortable

enjoy the misery

you elected it