Today, the Los Angeles Times ran an exposé on the sky-high costs going into Irvine's Great Park. The bulk of the story was written by now-retired Times reporter Roy Rivenburg — one he completed before he took the buyout in May. The paper decided to hold it in time for today's launch of the $5 million helium balloon (which staffer Derek Olson and myself boarded earlier today, vertigo and all.)
But the Times neglected to print some interesting facts about the roadblocks the city of Irvine threw in the way of Rivenburg's reporting. This afternoon, he shared the following with the Weekly:
The Times filed a public-records-act request with Irvine on Feb. 28 to get details on 17 items in the Great Park budget. The city replied on April 3, but wasn't generous with the information. Rivenburg cites the following cases:
• In answer to his request for information on a $200,000 "special event," Irvine sent a — dun, dun, dunn — blank page.
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• When the paper asked for a breakdown of expenses on a $75,000 focus-group session, Irvine sent nada. Rivenburg got the same enthusiastic response when he pressed for details on $80,000 for "video production," $500,000 for relocating motor homes stored on park property and $250,000 for two mail surveys of OC residents.
• A request for details on $270,000 spent by the park on newsletters was met with an unexplained invoice for $46,000.
On May 10, the Times repeated its January public-records request on 11 of the 17 budget items, many seeking details on a no-bid public-relations contract awarded to Forde & Mollrich. The OC grand jury and several park board members have criticized the city of Irvine over Great Park spending in general and the multimillion-dollar no-bid PR and legal services contracts in particular.
"On June 18, Irvine answered the second public-records request, but that was after I left, so I don't know whether it was any more enlightening than the first response," Rivenburg writes in an e-mail.