Independent Audit Proves Massive Larry Agran Corruption At The Orange County Great Park

GreatParkHeistbyBillHunt.jpg
Illustration by Bill Hunt
Since the late 1970s and until about a decade ago, Larry Agran served as the most beloved liberal politician in the heart of California's Ronald Reagan-style conservatism, Orange County. Democratic Party activists cherished his words and followed him around as loyal disciples. Lefty academics hailed him as a refreshing political reformer dedicated to good, honest government.

But 2004 ended up being a watershed year for Agran, who'd fought Bill Clinton for the 1992 Democratic Party nomination for president of the United States. Having become the undisputed boss of a political machine that controlled the City of Irvine, his deep character flaws revealed themselves to his close political and personal allies: journalist Will Swaim, then my editor here at the Weekly, UC Irvine professor and onetime an Agran-appointed city planning commission chairman Mark Petracca and defense lawyer Chris Mears.

Swaim allowed me to investigate and uncover numerous, corrupt Agran moves involving shenanigans with public funds and backroom, sweetheart deals for his pals.

Mears, who'd been a member of Agran's 3-2 city council majority and a man who'd once chewed me out for questioning their ethics, quit the machine in disgust and told me on the record, "[Agran's] a man who has completely lost his perspective on what it means to be a public servant."

Petracca--one of the county's most respected political observers and a man admired across the political spectrum for his blunt, principled assessments--painfully admitted that he'd vote for Republican council candidates in Irvine over Agran because, at least, he didn't "question their honesty and their integrity."

Throughout the spectacle, Agran angrily portrayed himself as the victim of a smear campaign and even issued legal threats against anyone who dared provide information and quotes to me about what was increasingly obvious a cesspool, especially in plans to build The Orange County Great Park, one of the state's largest, public works projects.

That gross situation--reporters uncovering government malfeasance and Agran nonetheless perfecting the art of political thievery--existed for 12 years until 2013, when Republicans finally took control of Irvine.

Over the high-pitched squeals of Agran and his robotic council sidekick, Beth Krom, the new majority ordered an independent audit to answer a question the Democratic political machine didn't want answered: How did Agran spend more than $200 million in Great Park funds, but yet after more than eight years of alleged planning there was (and is) no park?

Late yesterday, the well-respected financial forensics team at Hagen, Streiff, Newton & Oshiro Accountants (HSNO) issued a scathing, 50-page audit report that should be Agran's political obituary.

In a just world, the HSNO audit also would be the alarm to finally awaken all the investigatory bodies that have for years oddly ignored mounting evidence of Agran's corruption: the FBI, California Attorney General's office, U.S. Department of Justice, Tony Rackauckas' Orange County District Attorney's office and the Orange County Grand Jury.

larryagrankang.jpg
Photo by Christopher Victorio
Exposed: Agran (right) and his subservient Democratic council buddy Sukhee Kang
Page after page of the audit reveals how Agran, Krom and their bureaucrats shamelessly treated hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds as their own money. They repeatedly botched park planning, hid spending from other elected officials, hired cronies, doctored public records, concocted shell games, inflated sweetheart deals, lied to the public about the success of park planning and wasted tens of millions of dollars through sheer incompetence. Perhaps most troubling, they essentially used the park piggy bank as their re-election treasuries.

We previously knew Agran handed Arnold Forde--his private political adviser and, by the way, a Rackauckas pal--a $100,000 a month, no bid contract to perform public relations for a park that didn't exist.

Thanks to the audit we now also know that Agran funneled another $50,000 a month deal as well as a third lucrative contract to Forde.

Here's one reason there's now almost no money left to build the Great Park and what Forde's bank account looked like thanks to his ties to the Agran machine:


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34 comments
magicvilas
magicvilas

I guess we should be grateful they saved enough money to keep helium in the balloon...

OC Weekly
OC Weekly

Wow, congrats for the most clueless comment we've seen in years. Read up on our archives instead of getting your talking points from Scott Baugh, wontcha?

Andrew Russell
Andrew Russell

When the Communists at the Weekly are forced to use words like "Massive" in the headlines to describe the corruption of a fellow traveler, you know it's bad. Still no overt mention of Agran's party affiliation though, which one would think would be a relevant fact to the story. Helluva job, Mox, you partisan hack. Agran should have been tarred and feathered and thrown in the slammer at least a decade ago. It will be interesting to see if the Weekly follows up and gives this story the same coverage it gives to a tenant/landlord dispute. At a minimum you owe your readers some more breathtaking naivete ("I'm stunned there's gambling going on at Rick's Cafe!") about a story you turned a blind eye to for the better part of 3 decades.

pauljonruiz
pauljonruiz

Did anyone not expect this??  From the beginning I thought that this park should belong to the County of Orange and NOT some city.  The idea that our parents (at least mine) worked so hard to build the El Toro Marine base and then give that tax payer paid for piece of land to Irvine was ridiculous.  Really?  No one thought when the government just gave millions of dollars in land to Irvine that there wouldn't be some kind of scam involved?? I vote that the land return to the County and strip Irvine from reaping all the financial windfall  they expected to get.

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

Come on Mr. United States Attorney for this District, start doing your job and get the FBI involved in this case and clean up the political corruption in Irvine.  We seem to be pretty clear of foreign terrorists these days so let's concentrate on those  who are destroying our government from the inside.  We anxiously await your actions.  

moi621
moi621

Larry Agran is a Liar !   A traitor to his campaign.   Larry Agran was was a horrible experience for Irvine and I pray he is busted with jail time.

Agran destroyed the Irvine master plan.

He posed as a "smart growth" advocate and traded our low density preservation for High Density condos.  The city has no place for Its' Harvest Festival.

I have spoken with him and his Pediatrician wife. 

 They are rape and pillage sorts on our quality of life.

Irvine voters had no choice but to support malignant growth because

Larry Agran is a Liar.

Thankfully, I no longer live in Irvine with its' 3 green lights required to get through some interesections.

BBAIN
BBAIN

So is any of this actually criminal?  I'll agree that the progress of the park has been slow as molasses.  You gotta hand it to Agran though - he did a great job of preventing the airport.  I met him at Albertsons one day before the most recent election.  He seemed like a nice guy, although he was trying to get votes, so of course he'd be nice.  Bottom line is if was gonna get busted, he would have already.

cynthia241
cynthia241

If you are sitting around waiting for law enforcement to jump onto this, you have a long wait ahead of you. Citizens need to get off our own butts and write the complaints, hiring attorneys if need be, the expense is nothing in comparison to the fleecing we are getting when this behavior continues. If you file a formal complaint with the District Attorney, he HAS TO reply, and explain WHY he did not file charges or otherwise pursue the complaint. Given this much money, and the attention that comes with it, he might not want to go on record as officially looking the other way. At least that the hope we have in Anaheim, and I wish all the best to you in Irvine as well. 

Debbie Grubert Serrano
Debbie Grubert Serrano

Like that is a surprise. Nothing has happen at that park in years did you need an audit...Shame on Agran..

itshb
itshb

will anything be done about it?   hmmmm

paullucas714
paullucas714 topcommenter

I used to work on the great Park for Fuscoe Engineering. I did the WQMP and SWPP plans for the great balloon. I could tell you a few stories.

Rick Hale
Rick Hale

Corruption at a big project like the Great Park? No way.

jatherten
jatherten

Congratulations for the most clueless use of a comment engine OC Weekly. 

paullucas714
paullucas714 topcommenter

You are both wrong. Larry Agran may have run for the nomination against Bill Clinton. But that's about as far as it goes in relation to his "democratic Party Operative-ness." Same goes for George Urch and Chris Townsend. Chris Townsend is an Operative For hire. he has as many of not more Republican Clients than he does Democratic candidates and campaigns. In fact I am pretty sure he has waaaaay more Republican ballot measures, candidates and other activities than Democratic ones. How the hell would the guy be able to pay the rent otherwise? The only thing that makes these guys get called Democratic Operatives" is that they are the only major operatives in OC that are willing to work with Democratic Candidates and ballot measures. And these are the corporate elite type Dems at that. Which is basically saying they only cater to limousine liberals. George Urch used to be the DPOC executive Director many many many years ago. He is a Registered Dem. But that's about it. He is in no way a DPOC Operative at all. He is a single candidate or issue operative. Many times it is to the benefit of GOP issues and candidates. His sparse forays into Democratic campaigns earns him the scarlet letter of Democrat which in my opinion is quite unfair to him as it is used in a negative way. He is basically an insider in OC Politics which is primarily Republican.

rscottmoxley
rscottmoxley topcommenter

Dear Facebook persona "Andrew Russell": Congratulations! You cowardly barking from a fake name is big time lame. In the first sentence of the second paragraph of my article, I stated, despite your lie, that Agran sought the Democratic Party nomination for president against Bill Clinton. Grow some balls.

paullucas714
paullucas714 topcommenter

@ltpar That US Attorney Laura Duffy is busy cracking down on Medical Cannabis shops in San Diego. Imagine of we just stopped doing that and collected the sales tax revenues and saved shitloads of money too and also have time to monitor shit like this. I worked on site at the great park and saw a lot of shit up close and personal.

rscottmoxley
rscottmoxley topcommenter

@ltpar Exactly. Orange County citizens deserve honest government leadership at The Great Park and criminal court justice for dirty politicians and their pals who've wrecked a once great project.

f.slater
f.slater

@moi621 

You got that right !

He is a Liar.

Why not vote for the Pro Growth guy for all the good  Agran did.

I remember the City of Irvine Master Plan.

Yes indeed, Agran did the most to destroy it.  Go figure.  Graft?  Corruption?

I hope they nail him too.  He is not an "honest" man.

f.slater
f.slater

@BBAIN 

Brian, does lying to voters count?

He was the Smart Growth candidate who abused and destroyed the 

City of Irvine Master Plan.

GustavoArellano
GustavoArellano moderator editortopcommenter

@BBAINYour last line is one of the dumbest excuses uttered by folks. Don't worry—you're not the only one. Same thing was said of Carona—and we all know what happened there...

rscottmoxley
rscottmoxley topcommenter

@paullucas714@paullucas714  Hi Paul: For you to suggest that Larry Agran, Christopher Townsend and George Urch aren't longtime Democrats--and may even be Republicans!--is the most bizarre assertion I've heard in recent memory. Why try to cloud the issue of the audit's disgraceful findings about what the Democrats did while in control of Great Park with utter, misleading nonsense? Oh! That's right. You too are a Democrat.

BBAIN
BBAIN

@f.slater I'm not pro-Agran dude - my basic question is... is anything he is doing actually illegal.  Shady, for sure.  But are any of his actions actually criminal? That's my question.  Why did they even need an audit?  I assume the city was keeping a set of books.  Couldn't anyone have just reviewed the general ledgers and check registers?  Did Agran somehow falsify records?  That would be criminal for sure.  Again - if he broke any laws, lock him up and throw away the key!  BTW - Beth Krom is a cunt.  

BBAIN
BBAIN

@GustavoArellano Thanks for insulting a loyal reader - although I suppose I should expect that for commenting.  I voted for Choi - based on your guys' anti-Agran articles.  I appreciate the dirt you guys have dug up on Agran and informing us Irvinites of this nonsense.  Agran's not stupid though and he is a lawyer.  I don't think your Carona analogy is valid... Carona got convicted on witness tampering after they wired Haidl.  BTW - I'd like to buy you lunch next time you're in LF for your 'Hole in the Wall' column.  I'll send you my e-mail address.

20ftjesus
20ftjesus topcommenter

@GustavoArellano@BBAIN- I skimmed through the 49 pages looking for the juicy bits and didn't find any evidence of illegal activity.  Did you see something in it that specifically says Agran acted against the law? 

paullucas714
paullucas714 topcommenter

@rscottmoxley@paullucas714 They work sometimes for those guys. But they wouldn't be able to eat if they only worked with Dems or would allow themselves to be branded Democratic Operatives. I guess Im just gonna stop now I just cant make you understand where Im coming from.

paullucas714
paullucas714 topcommenter

@rscottmoxley@paullucas714

http://www.townsendpa.com/clients/


Thats the link to the Chris Townsend and Associates client list. At least the ones they publish. They represent no less than 20 cities in the County of orange and the County of orange itself (All Reps). If this guy is a Liberal Democratic Operative its news to me as the n umber of Democrats on City Diaes in OC is quite sparse. Even cities that have a majority Dem members have him as their lobbyist. And thats just OC citys. Many other cities in the state use his lobby firm and they are also Rep majority ran. Additionally the


The list of principals at the great park is a whos who of high power GOP donors. That's kind of an inconvenience to Larry Agrans Liberal creds and pretty much sends his "Operative" Status for Democratic candidates and issues to the trash heap where they belong.


George Urch works for who ever is paying the bill. Guess what in OC; that's mostly GOP and Republican issues and candidates. How do you think these guys eat and pay the bills? It sure as heck not by being a "Democratic Operative". If anything an argument can be made to brand them moles for the GOP that go into Democratic waters to piss in them.

rscottmoxley
rscottmoxley topcommenter

@paullucas714@rscottmoxleyTo again recklessly imply that Chris Townsend and George Urch are somehow not Democratic/labor union operatives is so ridiculous and contrary to reality that I sadly must conclude you might be ingesting brain-altering substances.

rscottmoxley
rscottmoxley topcommenter

@paullucas714@rscottmoxley Oh, wow, Paul. Agran has been a Dem his entire life. Both Townsend and Urch are registered Dems, have for more than a quarter century worked closely to Dem and labor union politicians and sit in special, honorary seats at annual Orange County Democratic Party fundraising events. But you want the public to think they are Republicans or fake Dems? Come on, man. Stop with the BS. It's really sad and suggesting I need to find out what's up with you.

paullucas714
paullucas714 topcommenter

@rscottmoxley@paullucas714 I don't know how I can make such an error. I claimed from the get go that although they are Democrats, and Im not actually sure Townsend is a registered Dem, they do not do what they do in the vein of any Democratic idea issue or candidate. They only do what they for cash. They may be Democrats but these guys are in no way Democratic Operatives. I thought I made that clear in my first comment. So Im not retreating at all.

Regards,


Paul

rscottmoxley
rscottmoxley topcommenter

@paullucas714@rscottmoxleyOkay, it appears you've retreated from your ridiculous, prior declaration that I'd made an error by describing Agran, Townsend and Urch as Democrats. Whoa! If you are now saying these three Democrats aren't loyal to any Democratic Party ideals, then l can buy that description as reasonable. But the bottom line is that under Democrats Larry Agran, Beth Krom and Sukhee Kang-control, the wonderful idea of a Great Park for Orange County residents was destroyed by those three funneling critical park resources to their political operatives. If Irvine residents aren't idiots, they will punish the Agran/Krom machine in the next election.

paullucas714
paullucas714 topcommenter

@rscottmoxley@paullucas714 Whoa!!? easy turbo. I didn't say they weren't Democrats, nor am I saying that they aren't Operatives. They are most definitely political operatives but they do what they do to benefit themselves. Not the Democratic Party or ideas. Their loyalty lies with the almighty dollar. And that alone. Sorry if I wasn't clear about that dude.  

f.slater
f.slater

@BBAIN@f.slater 

The Smart Growth candidate lied to me.

His terms may as well been served by Pro Growth folks for all the preservation of the master plan Agran honored.

He lied to me and I don't care if they "frame" him.

Busting a crook is busting a crook. 

And Agran is crooked to say the least.

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