The City of Irvine has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to issue a contempt order against former mayor Larry Agran for refusing to answer questions under oath about financial benefits he may have received from Orange County Great Park contractors when he controlled the $1.6 billion project.
Anthony R. Taylor, the city's special counsel, filed the superior court case this week in hopes of forcing Agran, a 1992 Democratic Party presidential primary candidate, to field questions he adamantly refused to answer during a March deposition.
Failure to obey a court order could result in jail time.
Agran--a lawyer and longtime boss of a political machine that ran Irvine and its proposed Great Park project for 12 years until 2012--has had troubled explaining how he spent $250 million in taxpayer funds without building a single, major planned feature.
Taylor's investigation produced convincing evidence that Agran and his allies, including councilwoman Beth Krom and ex-councilman Sukhee Kang, mismanaged the project by wasting tens of millions of dollars in highly questionable expenditures.
We've known for years that Agran, one of the most secretive politicians in county history, funneled park funds to his political operatives in wildly lucrative, no-bid contracts.
He directed his corporate partners to communicate with him through his wife's private email account to keep the public in the dark about his moves.
In hopes of swaying the city to bypass seeking a contempt order, the career politician's lawyers provided a written declaration in lieu of surrendering requested documents: "Mr. Agran will swear unequivocally that he absolutely did not receive free political consulting services in exchange for his supporting the award of contracts with inflated prices to consultants for work on the Great Park project."
According to Taylor, Agran's statement doesn't fully resolve the matter and he wants Sheriff Sandra Hutchens to "bring him before a judge" and force him to explain why he shouldn't be held in contempt of a valid city-issued subpoena.
Agran has claimed he doesn't have to answer Great Park questions because of his alleged personal privacy rights, a stance the city council rejected as absurd.
"As the former Chairman of the Orange County Great Park Corporation, Mr. Agran has essential insight that is relevant to understanding whether there was any volunteer work that consultants did for his political campaigns while those consultants were working on the Great Park project," Taylor wrote. "This information is necessary to determine if there were any conflicts of interest or misuse of city resources in violation of the provisions of [city contracts."
The city council voted on March 24 to authorize Taylor's lawsuit.
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A hearing date has not yet been scheduled.