Email Chain Reveals Toxic Political Atmosphere in Irvine

Irvine City Council members Steven Choi, left, Beth Krom, Sukhee Kang, Larry Agran and Christina Shea. (Photo by: Violeta Vacqueiro)

Irvine City Council members Steven Choi, left, Beth Krom, Sukhee Kang, Larry Agran and Christina Shea. (Photo by: Violeta Vacqueiro)

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010 | An email from Irvine Councilwoman Beth Krom to City Manager Sean Joyce — which Krom accidentally sent to Councilwoman Christina Shea — shows just how toxic the political atmosphere in Irvine has become.

The email chain started with a notice from Assistant City Manager Sharon Landers to council members that an appreciation dinner will be held for the residents living near the Jeffrey Road grading project, which has seen numerous delays.

In a reply to Landers’ email, Shea questioned whether taxpayers should pay for such a dinner given the city’s budget woes. She then asked for the dinner party to be placed on the next City Council meeting agenda.

The next email in the chain came from Krom and was intended for Joyce. She ordered Joyce not to place the item on the agenda and dressed him down for accepting Shea’s requests, which Krom says are purely political, to place items on past council meeting agendas.

Krom, who is running for California’s 48th District seat in the U.S. Congress, termed Joyce’s actions a “failure of leadership.”

Krom’s email was forwarded to Voice of OC. Here it is in its entirety:

Do not put this on any agenda. Seriously — if you give her a platform to turn this into an issue (something that would NEVER have happened had this been handled internally without bringing the Council into it), then you will bear the responsibility.

Here’s a thought…how about the contractors underwriting the event? Aren’t they the cause of the delay? Wouldn’t that be a nice way for them to express THEIR appreciation?

So many times over the past several years, issues have been created because no one bothers to calculate the way in which these moments get exploited politically. That’s a failure of leadership. Christina knows you will never stand up to her, so she plays you time and again.

I’m very disappointed. If something like this gets executed so poorly, is it any wonder that a major project like the over crossing has as many snags and screw-ups as we’ve experienced? I hope in your quiet moments you own responsibility for things like these. You can delegate authority, but the buck stops at your feet, Sean.

Enough said.

When asked about the email, Krom said she was just trying to express her concern about what she called a non-issue and the possibility that it was being used for political fodder.

“The city manager can do what the city manager wants to do,” Krom said. “My issue was I couldn’t believe this non-issue needed to be put on the agenda.” She added: “I think I just sort of was frustrated that the handling of the communication around a very benign event led to yet one more opportunity for Christina to create chaos out of nothing.”

Krom went on to say that Shea frequently tells Joyce what to do, and she was just calling it how she sees it.

“I watch the dynamics play out — that’s all I can say,” Krom said.

Shea, meanwhile, said that the email shows that Krom is the one who strong-arms Joyce. “She’s pretty much threatening the city manager and telling him not to put this on the agenda — and that is not appropriate,” Shea said.

Joyce declined to comment.

Shea doesn’t see the dinner party as equitable to other taxpayers in the city and says she wanted to place the item on the council meeting agenda to figure out a policy on these types of events. She also denied that raising the issue was a political play.

“I don’t find that [placing a dinner party on a council meeting agenda] political; I think it’s reasonable and rational,” Shea said.

Shea is also suspicious that the city is bowing to the council majority to increase voter turnout in the neighborhood, which she suspects to be full of longtime Agran supporters.

However, Krom said that the email notice was the first time she had heard about the event, and she doesn’t think other council members knew either. The email does appear to indicate that other council members did not know about the dinner party beforehand.

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