More Truth about Gafcon and the Great Park




Great Park contractor Gafcon has filed a formal complaint against the Great Park auditors HSN&O claiming the audit is harming Gafcon’s reputation. As Seekers of Truth, OJ Blog helps Gafcon prove their point.

The City of Irvine hired forensic accountants Hagen, Streiff, Newton & Oshiro  (HSN&O) to follow where the Great Park money went. A major destination was Gafcon via the Great Park Design Studio, which in turn was primarily owned by Gafcon CEO Yehudi ‘Gaf’ Gaffen. (Gafcon itself is owned by Gaf’s wife Pam).

HSN&O has raised concerns about Gafcon. In response, Gafcon has filed a complaint against HSN&O with the California Board of Accountancy.  Gafcon General Counsel Paul Najar states,”The deceptive allegations and misleading half-truths contained in the preliminary report have damaged our company and our valued employees.”

Gafcon has a point.  The City of Irvine’s website distributes extensive testimony gathered by HSN&O that diminishes Gafcon’s reputation.  But for some reason Gafcon didn’t include much of this material in the complaint against HSN&O.

So as a public service I have gathered highlights from the sworn depositions clearly showing that Gafcon is right: the HSN&O audit has gathered and released information harmful to Gafcon’s reputation.

Let’s start with Gafcon billing. Construction Manager Brendan McDevitt noted

Gafcon was taking a larger percentage of the overall fee than I thought was typical [BM 162]
Consultant Craig Smith, who was explicitly hired to evaluate Gafcon’s initial billing, said:
The Proposed $7 million allocation was, in my professional opinion, vastly overstated for the services provided [SL 184]

Gafcon was notable for more than just its billing. The most important engineer on the project, Pat Fuscoe, stated that

[Gafcon was] a fish out of water. [PF 236]

Veteran construction executive Keith McDonnell noted that

 [Gafcon’s] lower level design managers did not seem to be qualified. [KM 38]

Brendan McDevitt testified similarly:

Q: “ In your experience, had you ever come across a situation where a company had similarly staffed a project without hiring qualified individuals with technical backgrounds like Gafcon did here?”

A “I’d never see that before, no” [BM 116]

Keith McDonnell reported problems that arose from Gafcon’s collective inexperience:

I would say there was definite dysfunction within the design team and how Gafcon operated within that design team.  [KM 94]

It was very difficult to get clear, concise information out of the design team and Gafcon.   [KM 101]

Engineer Pat Fuscoe was blunter:
It [the Great Park Design Studio] was totally dysfunctional [PF  96]
And yet, despite these difficulties, Yehudi tried to expand Gafcon’s scope of work. Irvine City Manager Sean Joyce testified
Yehudi Gaffen was pursuing or performing work for which authority did not exist from the Board of Directors.  That was a constant concern  [SJ 123]
Great Park interim CEO Sharon Landers agreed:

They [Gafcon] certainly had a tendency to operate beyond the scope of what they were authorized to do.  And they were admonished on many occasions, in various ways, including in writing. [SL 169]

Beyond Gafcon’s organizational issues, Yehudi himself made on an impact. Irvine City Manager Sean Joyce testified:

Sean: The Great Park Balloon undertaking was fraught with examples where staff was frustrated …

Auditor: Was there a particular root cause of those challenges?

Sean:  …the involvement of Yehudi Gaffen  [SJ 51]

 George Urch, nicknamed “Larry Agran‘s Chief of Staff,” tried to put a positive spin on Gaf’s input:

Gaf is an emotional person. He’s very passionate, and sometimes strong in his opinions. [GU 121]

but Sean was clear about how that “passion” was viewed by the staff:

 He [Yehudi] was widely viewed as arrogant.  [SJ 89]

Such short quotes obviously don’t fully reflect Gafcon’s contribution to the Great Park. However, Larry Agran’s hand picked CEO,  Mike Ellzey, submitted a concise summary of Gafcon’s work:

[ME 12]
Lastly, Gafcon’s complaint to the California Board of Accountancy reflects the competence Gafcon demonstrated throughout its involvement with the Great Park. In addition to asking the Accountancy Board to discipline HSN&O, Gafcon also bizarrely demanded that the City of Irvine issue “an immediate and public exoneration of all the unsubstantiated allegations … as well as an apology to Gafcon Inc.”  By what authority could an Accountancy Board dictate to a city government?  As Board spokeswoman Lauren Hersh said, “I can’t see that we would at all be involved in telling the city of Irvine what it needs to do.”
Maybe Gafcon should sue over that, too?
[BM162] Brendan McDevitt deposition, page 116
[SL 184] Sharon Landers deposition exhibit 2, page 184
[PF 236] Pat Fuscoe deposition, page 236
[KM 38] Keith McDonell deposition page 38
[BM 116] Brendan McDevitt deposition, page 116
[KM 94] Keith McDonell deposition, page 94
[KM 101] Keith McDonell deposition, page 101
[PF 96] Pat Fuscoe deposition, page 96
[SL 169] Sharon Landers deposition, page 169
[SJ 51] Sean Joyce deposition, page 51
[GU 121] George Urch deposition, page 121
[SJ 89] Sean Joyce deposition, page 89
[ME 12] Mike Ellzey deposition, pages 12-13

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