Choi, Shea, Lalloway Spent $1.5 Million In Public Funds To Deceive Irvine Taxpayers And Win an Election
In January of 2013, the Irvine City Council voted to conduct a comprehensive forensic audit of the Orange County Great Park, covering the period 2005-2012. The Council majority appointed a Subcommittee consisting of Councilmembers Christina Shea and Jeffrey Lalloway to “oversee the audit.”
Two years later — after spending $1.5 million dollars in public funds — the lawyers and accountants hired by the Shea-Lalloway Subcommittee could not even agree on what to call their final report. CPA firm HSNO calls it an “Orange County Great Park Performance Review.” The Subcommittee’s hired law firm, Aleshire & Wynder, calls it “The Great Park Audit.” In fact, it is neither.
It is simply the latest chapter in a decade-long political feud between two partisan factions on the Irvine City Council.
Unlike previous independent Great Park audits, which were controlled by City staff free from interference by Councilmembers, the Shea-Lalloway Audit Subcommittee selected and retained the accountants and attorneys without approval by the City Council. The Audit Subcommittee conducted its proceedings almost entirely in secret, circumventing the Open Meeting requirements of the Brown Act and overriding the control and oversight of the City Manager and City staff.
According to a deposition statement by attorney Anthony Taylor, co-author of what he terms the “Final Audit Report,” the Subcommittee managed “day-to-day aspects of the audit” and “controlled the direction” of the audit.
Despite the fact that this “audit” took longer and cost more than any legitimate city audit in the entire history of Orange County, it did not uncover one penny of public funds that were missing or misappropriated. There is not one example of any erroneous billings, improper billings, double billings, over-billing or any unauthorized billing by any Great Park contractor.
The “audit” specifically targeted political opponents of the Subcommittee members. Nearly all of the efforts by the auditors have been directed at discrediting former Councilmember and Great Park Chair, Larry Agran, a long-time political foe of Councilmembers Shea and Lalloway. Also targeted for attack by the Shea-Lalloway Subcommittee were Gafcon and Forde & Mollrich, two companies described by the auditors as having “strong connections” to Councilmember Agran.
Councilmember and Audit Subcommittee member Jeff Lalloway placed himself in a position to control and direct an investigation against Councilmember Larry Agran, his opponent in the November 2014 City Council election — using pubic funds and resources to attack Agran.
State law provides that “a public agency may not spend public funds to promote a partisan position in an election campaign without clear and explicit statutory authority to do so.” The penalties for officials who violate these laws are severe, including fines, imprisonment, and personal liability to reimburse the public agency for any misspent funds.
Complaints against the City of Irvine and its audit team have been filed with the State Board of Accountancy, the Legislature’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee, and the State Attorney General.
Irvine Community News & Views will keep readers informed about the status of the complaints regarding what one Irvine management official called the Great Park “Fraudit.”