Gafcon requests withdrawal of audit report: City of Irvine silent on rebuttals to falsehoods in audit report
Letter to Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Lalloway and Councilmember Christina Shea
SAN DIEGO (February 24, 2015) – Following numerous requests for response and the release of a video that disproves every allegation against the company, San Diego-based Gafcon is publicly requesting that the City of Irvine withdraw the Audit Report released in January 2014 on the Great Park project and publicly acknowledge there has been no wrongdoing on the part of Gafcon or the Design Studio. In a letter sent to the City’s Audit Subcommittee on February 23, 2015, Gafcon outlined its request for the City to withdraw the report based on the clear bias and flawed audit process.
“We are asking for this report to be withdrawn because we can no longer tolerate the damage these false and misleading allegations are doing to our hard-earned reputation,” said Paul Najar of Gafcon. “The claims against us have been proven false again and again, yet the City has refused to respond to or acknowledge our report or the clear bias of the audit and the unjust way in which it has been conducted.”
Gafcon provided the City with a comprehensive video and written rebuttal on September 10, 2014, negating the allegations against the company and the Great Park Design Studio. Gafcon was a key member of the Great Park Design Studio that oversaw the Great Park’s master plan and design preparation work. The false allegations stemmed from a report presented by Hagen, Streiff, Newton & Oshiro Accountants (HSNO) that contained numerous factual inaccuracies, incorrect assumptions, false findings and speculative preliminary conclusions. The City has not responded to the rebuttal, which clearly and thoroughly disproves each of the false accusations using video footage from the last 10 years of Great Park Board and City Council meetings. The complete rebuttal can be viewed at www.greatparktruth.com and refutes each allegation made against the Design Studio. It shows the extent to which Board and Councilmembers were involved in all significant decision-making related to the Park from which they now seek to distance themselves.
“The Audit Subcommittee has consistently represented to the public that this report is part of a forensic audit of the Orange County Great Park. However, such an effort has not been performed, and if the Subcommittee had actually directed a true impartial audit, the report would never have been released,” said Najar. “Releasing such a report, one so politically charged that was based on hearsay, rumors and absolutely no factual or credible evidence, destroyed any potential for this audit to be unbiased or unprejudiced.”
Council minutes and documents show that in July 2014, the Council moved to “approve a budget adjustment in the amount of $333,000, to be allocated from Great Park Fund 180, allowing the Great Park auditor (HSNO) to finalize a comprehensive forensic audit of the Orange County Great Park,” and noted that the audit would be completed by the end of August 2014. Now, more than seven months later, the audit is still ongoing. This investigation has now cost the City approximately $1.5 million and, after two years, has not put forth any evidence supporting its false allegations. In addition, without ever offering any proof or further study of the false findings in the Audit Report, the investigators launched a set of new and unfounded inquiries in a Status Update released on October 14, 2014. As with all of the allegations about Gafcon in the January report, the areas of additional inquiry relating to Gafcon or the Design Studio are blatantly false and were easily disproven in a written rebuttal sent to the City shortly after the October 14 meeting.
“Gafcon is proud of its work on the Great Park. Our firm and our valued employees have been seriously injured by these ridiculous allegations, which are completely unfounded and a result of the partisan politics and infighting in the City of Irvine,” said Najar. “It has become increasingly clear that this so-called audit cannot be completed accurately and fairly, so we have called on the City to withdraw this biased and seriously flawed report and acknowledge what has already been publicly proven – Gafcon and the Design Studio did no wrong.”
Gafcon began working on the Orange County Great Park project in 2006, in conjunction with Ken Smith Landscape Architect, Inc. The two entities joined together to form the Great Park Design Studio, which served as the master designer during the Master Plan Design Phase and the Schematic Design Phase. Since beginning work on the Great Park project, Gafcon has cooperated with the requests of the City of Irvine. The Design Studio followed its contractual requirements and related directions given by the City of Irvine and the Great Park Board of Directors in a professional manner, completing the work on time and within budget. There was full oversight of the public funds on this project, and all spending was approved by the City Council and Great Park Board of Directors. In fact, the City has already paid for two audits of the Design Studio’s work, neither of which found any wrongdoing by Gafcon or the Design Studio.
The Design Studio has cooperated with all appropriate requests from the City of Irvine, and since the release of the January 2014 report, has supplied the City with more than 8,000 documents, which translates into more than 35,000 pages, compiled from the records of the Great Park Design Studio.
The Great Park master plan and schematic design have received numerous national awards from key organizations for planning and vision, including the Southern California Association of Governments 2010 4th Annual Compass Blueprint Recognition Award-Honorable Mention, American Institute of Architects 2009 AIA Honor Award in Regional and Urban Design, the American Society of Landscape Architects 2009 ASLA Professional Honor Award for General Design, the American Planning Association (National) 2009 APA Focused Planning Issue Award, the American Society of Landscape Architects 2009 National Award for Research, the American Institute of Architects 2008 AIA Honor Award in Regional & Urban Design, the American Society of Landscape Architects 2008 ASLA National Honor Award for Analysis & Planning, American Planning Association (California and OC Chapters) 2008 APA Focused Planning Issue Award, California Society for Ecological Restoration 2007 SERCAL Members Award, and selected as part of the 2008 Sustainable Sites Initiative Case Study.
Gafcon is one of Southern California’s most respected construction consulting firms with more than 100 employees and offices in San Diego and Los Angeles. A family-owned business, Gafcon has a long history of involvement in the Southern California region and has successfully overseen more than $4 billion worth of construction projects on time and within budget, providing continual transparency to clients, public entities, oversight committees and taxpayers.