The superstitious adage that “Trouble comes in twos” may hold special meaning for Councilmember Christina Shea. Just as she is launching yet another re-election campaign, Shea finds herself under investigation by two State agencies for misconduct in public office.
Earlier this year, it was reported that the State Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) had initiated an investigation to determine if Shea had violated the State’s conflict of interest laws. The FPPC probe was triggered by revelations that Shea had pressured City staff for special hurry-up approval of renovation plans and construction permits for Irvine-based KIA Motors, while at the same time she was being paid as much as $100,000 per year as a KIA Motors consultant.
In recent weeks, Shea claimed that the Irvine City Attorney had written an opinion exonerating her. Councilmember Jeff Lalloway challenged Shea’s assertion, and successfully pushed for Council release of the City Attorney’s opinion. As it turns out, the City Attorney did not exonerate Shea; he did not even address the question of whether Shea’s conduct was in violation of State law; his memorandum only spoke to issues of Irvine City law, which of course are not the basis for the FPPC probe.
In the course of what was a weeks-long dispute, Shea repeatedly attacked Lalloway during City Council meetings and through social media. Lalloway, in turn, began referring to Shea as “corrupt Christina.” There is no indication as to when the FPPC will conclude its investigation of Shea.
State Auditor’s Investigation
The second investigation of Shea involves the State Auditor, who has been directed by the State’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee to look into allegations of abuse of power and misuse of public funds in connection with the Shea-led “forensic audit” of the Great Park.
In what critics called a “two-year, $1.5 million political witch hunt masquerading as an audit,” Shea failed to find even $1 in unauthorized spending or $1 in unaccounted for funds at the Great Park. Instead, taxpayer dollars were used to issue subpoenas, take endless depositions, and target political opponents — most notably, then-Councilmember Larry Agran — in advance of the 2014 election.
Misuse of public funds for political purposes is a serious offense under State law, potentially punishable as a felony. The State Auditor’s report is expected later this summer.