OC’s elected Republicans are very good at two things — calling for transparency and then protecting other Republicans from anything that reveals true transparency.
The Voice of OC offers this post featuring a letter from all of Orange County’s Republican State Senators and State Assembly elected urging Assemblyman Mike Gibson, who chairs the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, to reject a new request to audit the City of Irvine’s current Great Park audit efforts. The original hearing resulting is a 9-3 vote in favor of auditing the audit, but due to committee rules the measure didn’t move forward because it needed at least four votes from Assembly members and State Senate members — the measure lacked enough votes from the Senate side of the house.
From the letter:
Furthermore, the City of Irvine will assert its legal rights to preserve our investigation. The City of Irvine is a charter city. As you are aware, under the California Constitution, the municipal affairs of a charter city are generally left in the hands of that charter city, as a matter of constitutional law. (California Constitution, Art. XI, Section 5). No State funds were used for the Great Park Audit and the Great Park Audit is a municipal affair of Irvine, a charter city. An “audit of the audit” would therefore be counter to the California Constitution and fall well outside the legitimate purview of the Committee.
Finally, we note that the Orange County District Attorney is currently investigating the conduct uncovered by the audit. The DA’s office rightly refused to take a position on whether the proposed audit of the audit should go forward. It is, after all, inconceivable that a county law enforcement agency would take any position at all on the acts of the State legislature in the performance of its own constitutional duties. But the proposed audit of the audit cannot help but be incomplete or compromised while the DA’s investigation is ongoing. For example, targets of the investigation will have to take the Fifth Amendment, thus thwarting an accurate completion of the audit of the audit. Or investigators might well grant total or partial immunity to witnesses or targets of the investigation, thereby influencing their testimony and undermining or tainting any cooperation with the audit of the audit. Under no circumstances can a complete and trustworthy audit be completed with the specter of a significant criminal investigation hanging over that audit.
Let’s be clear about one thing. The OCDA has asked for copies of documents in the case. This isn’t an investigation and certainly there isn’t anything criminal going on here. But the way the City’s investigation was conducted — with a two person subcommittee of Jeff Lalloway and Christina Shea — conducting the management of the Great Park investigation in secret, the way shocking details were released (vilifying vendors) and later corrected — were all designed to win elections and to punish political enemies.
State Senator John Moorlach offered this “get off my lawn” defense of fellow Republicans in the Daily Pilot over the weekend.
The rule of thumb is if you’re not helping, you’re meddling. Again, Orange County should politely tell Sacramento to butt out.
Meanwhile, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee will hear, for the second time, a rejected request for the California state auditor to review the recent audits of the Orange County Great Park in Irvine.
The goal is to get the answers to nine specific questions. The estimated cost to California taxpayers for this audit-of-the-audit request will be $250,800 (for 2,280 hours at $110 per hour, or $28,000 per question).
Such meddling does not come cheap.
Clearly, the Great Park fiasco has been pushing the envelope for too long. That is why the Irvine City Council took the proactive step of retaining accounting firms to scrutinize the Great Park budget and determine why, after spending more than $350 million, only 6.5% of the park has been developed. During this review, the parties involved in designing the Great Park were not forthcoming. Consequently, the costs escalated, but the resulting information obtained by the audits was damning.
One contractor involved in the Great Park debacle became uncomfortable with this level of scrutiny and came to the Legislature for a state audit of the Irvine City Council’s audit, which presumes that Irvine’s auditors somehow violated procedures.
Why is the Legislature being used as a tool for retaliation against whistleblowers? Let the city of Irvine get to the bottom of this alleged misappropriation of funds. Irvine should politely tell the state to butt out.
Someone tell the Great Accountant of OC that his estimate of Great Park spending is off by $130 million.
With such effort to ask the Joint Committee to not investigate — look, a squirrel — we have to wonder why the Republicans on the Irvine City Council and those elected state representatives are so afraid of what an audit of an audit will expose that such extraordinary efforts are being made to block it.
If there’s nothing to hide, the OC and Irvine Republicans ought to welcome it. Democrats Larry Agran and Beth Krom had no problem offering their votes for the Great Park audit, later investigation, because neither feared what the outcome would be. Mistakes in preliminary reports by HSNO made public by Irvine Republicans became “fact” even when proven wrong. And the audit/investigation of the Great Park is so over budget that its clear we can’t trust the Irvine Republican majority to do the right thing. If the OCDA was going to file charges, they would have done so by now.
There is one significant wild card here.
State AG and US Senate candidate Kamala Harris can decide to investigate the Great Park audit on her own. It’s exactly the sort of thing Democrats in OC would love to see her do and that action would probably peel some support away from Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez if the Harris decides this is worth looking into. Harris won’t get Republican support down here anyway, but an investigate would make many of us on the left happy she’s looking into this taxpayer-funded politically motivated witchhunt that is already six times over budget and only targeted a small number of vendors.