Great Park Winners and Losers

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While we eagerly await the formal release of Great Park Audit, here are some winners and losers from the depositions.


Larry Agran, Great Park Chair  Nowhere in the thousands of pages of depositions does anyone suggest Larry pocketed any of the $230 million of Great Park expenditures.[1]  Those hoping Larry would go to jail will be bitterly disappointed.

Pat Fuscoe, Fuscoe Engineering CEO  If anyone at the Great Park thinks Pat isn’t the Greatest Engineer Ever(™), they didn’t give a deposition.  The admiration of Pat from, well, pretty much everyone, is amazing. In hindsight, Irvine should have just handed the entire Great Park over to him.

Arnold Forde, Principal of Forde & Mollrich  His firm’s PR work received praise from all sides. He appears all over the depositions acting as Larry’s consigliere, seemingly the only person able to bring all the squabbling parties to a decision. Arnold himself describes his job as “herding cats.”

Aleshire and Wynder, Attorneys at Law  This firm laid the groundwork for a False Claims Act lawsuit against Gafcon, and possibly Forde & Mollrich. As Aleshire and Wynder gathered most of the evidence, I predict many happy billable hours in their future.

Cliff Wallace,  Great Park Deputy CEO  In a brilliant move of bureaucratic jiu-jitsu, Cliff single-handedly thwarted a planning process run amok. Since he did so before the money completely ran out, Irvine should give him an Employee of the Year award.

The Women.  Whereas the men of the depositions are blustering (Ellzey), argumentative (Mollrich), self-serving (McDevitt), or legalistic (Kohn), the four women deposed, including Great Park CFO Colleen Clark and interim Great Park CEO Sharon Landers, are co-operative, hard working, and willing to stand up to powerful men in the name of the public interest. If you need someone who will stay up until 4 am fixing the sub-standard presentation you botched, hire these women [2] .



Larry Agran, Great Park Chair  Larry called the shots on everything from hiring decisions to where to put the bathrooms, but he never setup a coherent management structure. By 2008, this chaotic lack of oversight led to a sprawling Master Plan that Gafcon estimated would cost $3-4 Billion and Pat Fuscoe guessed might take 50 years to complete. The Great Park was killed by horrible mis-management, not the Great Recession. Those hoping Larry would be vindicated will be bitterly disappointed.

Yehudi ‘Gaf’ Gaffen, Gafcon CEO If the Great Park Audit were a Scott Turow thriller,  ‘Gaf’ would be the villain. Whenever something hinky happened — “reconstituted” invoices, shoddy work, contracts with unclear origins, meetings that became yelling matches — ‘Gaf’ was nearby. I predict Gaf will spend many unhappy hours with his lawyers.

Stu Mollrich, Principal of Forde & Mollrich  Stu’s big fuss about the California Public Records Act prompted the city to take the unusual step of releasing these depositions as they were completed. If Stu had kept his mouth shut, none of these depositions would be public yet. Larry has Stu to thank for keeping the Great Park’s troubles in the news.

Harvey Liss, Irvine Planning Commissioner    The city’s suit will argue that Forde & Mollrich’s work was out of scope for a PR contract.  At the August 20th special City Council meeting, Harvey justified F&M’s $100,000-per-month retainer by claiming that “without Forde & Mollrich there would have been now nothing at the Great Park.”  Either that was some pretty impressive PR work, or Harvey has already conceded the anticipated legal claim.

Brendan Mcdevitt, Engineering Consultant Brendan was the Great Park hatchet man, whacking people no longer needed once Cliff Wallace had strangled the Master Plan.  Understandably, he doesn’t get much love from anyone.  Unfortunately for Brendan, liberties were taken with his compensation package.  I predict Brendan will also spend unhappy hours with lawyers.

Irvine Tax Payers Irvine had the resources to build a Pretty Good Park.  Great Park Designer Ken Smith creates internationally acclaimed “Urban” Parks for about a million dollars an acre.  With $230 million in-hand, Irvine had the resources to build 200 acres of a Ken Smith design. Alternatively, Irvine could have built a “suburban” park more than twice the size of Mile Square Park.  Either would have been Great. Instead, Irvine spent tens of millions of dollars on a “vision” that was never affordable [3] ending up with fancy bathrooms and an aging Balloon that gets fewer visitors than Irvine’s Central Bark.


[1]  Larry’s political campaigns are another matter.

[2] If you do hire any of these women, treat them with respect. If you disrespect them, they might just follow Sharon Landers’ example. At the end of her deposition, Sharon hands Yehudi Gaffen’s head to the auditors on a silver platter. Revenge is indeed a dish best served cold. Seven years cold.

[3] Even if the Redevelopment Agency (RDA) hadn’t been eliminated by Jerry Brown and the Great Recession had never happened, Irvine still couldn’t afford the Master Plan. The RDA would have provided about a billion-and-half dollars over thirty years.  However, the $1.6 billion cost estimate to “build” the Great Park was mostly for the “horizontals” — moving the dirt around, roads, sewers and other infrastructure. That $1.6 billion cost estimate had two small omissions: little operations budget, and no “verticals” — that is, most of the buildings.

About Tyler in Irvine

Twenty Year Irvine Resident. Native Texan and proud Longhorn. Pro-Choice Ron Paul supporter. "Do I contradict myself? ... then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes." - Walt Whitman