The question of the day (and perhaps the decade) at the Irvine City Council: Is Councilwoman Christina Shea being unfairly denied information because of her opposition to the council majority? Or is she just making unnecessary trouble?
As my story Wednesday detailed, Shea says that environmental reports regarding the Great Park are not only being kept from the public, but from her as well.
I talked to Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang on Wednesday afternoon, and he told me that Shea’s claims are baseless and that she could have seen the documents — which are shielded from the public on grounds of attorney-client privilege — if she had only asked for them during weekly briefings with city staff.
Kang didn’t say whether Shea actually raised the questions during the briefings, but he did say that she missed many of them.
Shea, whom I called after my talk with Kang, said what the mayor told me was a fabrication. She said she certainly did request updates in private briefings with both City Manager Sean Joyce and Great Park Chief Executive Mike Ellzey, but those requests went unanswered.
“He [Kang] has no knowledge of whether I go to briefings or I don’t go to briefings,” Shea said. “He’s making that up.”
Joyce wouldn’t make himself available for comment, and Ellzey didn’t return a call seeking comment.
Shea, a Republican, has a long history of raising such transparency issues from the dais, and the Democratic majority has a long history of saying that she is making mountains out of molehills.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Shea complained that the council had not received an update on the work of URS Corp., an environmental consultant the city attorney hired to assist with legal issues surrounding cleanup of the park, which sits on land that was formerly the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.
The city has deemed documents pertaining to the consultant’s work protected from public view by attorney-client privilege. Shea says she is suspicious whether the documents should be given attorney-client protection and said she will make them public if she finds out they are not protected.
Shea says she and fellow Republican Councilman Steven Choi are consistently shut out by the Larry Agran-led faction that runs the city.
“They give Sukhee, Larry and Beth [Krom] updates. They close up with Steven and I completely,” Shea said. “What he [Kang] gets and what I get are two different things.”
Kang said politics play no role in who sees what. “She [Shea] certainly could have raised the issue with Sean [Joyce] or Mike Ellzey, then the staff will take it, then they’ll [the city manager and Great Park CEO] circulate the memo in response to her inquiry,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to use that time for any questions on issues.”
Shea said she intends to schedule the issue for discussion during a closed session meeting on Sept. 28th. Afterward, she will decide whether to make the documents public.