I had occasion this week to speak with Irvine Councilman and Great Park Board Chairman Larry Agran about the county grand jury’s scathing report on the Great Park’s financing.
Agran didn’t pull any punches. He characterized the report as factually inaccurate and said it was “poorly put together.”
“Their report reflected a profound ignorance about the funding agreement,” Agran said of the grand jury.
While the city’s official response to the grand jury report is still in the making, the Irvine City Council is expected to discuss the complete response at an upcoming council meeting, according to Irvine Public Information Officer Craig Reem.
I also spoke this week with John Cole, a member of the grand jury. Cole said if Agran had issues with the report, he had ample time to air them with the grand jury before the report was released. When a grand jury report is released on any organization, that organization is invited to fact-check the report, he said.
The report expressed three major concerns. First, the report expressed doubts that the city of Irvine will be paid back on a complex $134 million loan agreement that involves the city, the Great Park Corporation and the Irvine Redevelopment agency.
The report also said having all five Irvine City Council members sitting on the boards of the Redevelopment agency and the Great Park Corp. is a possible conflict of interest. Finally, it said Great Park leaders’ claims that the park could be built without billing the taxpayers were false.
“If Mr. Agran wants to challenge our facts — well, we gave him the opportunity to make sure all our ducks were in a row,” Cole said.