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Irvine council votes to keep Great Park Corp. role despite grand jury’s recommendation

Thursday, January 14, 2016

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The Great Park Corp., launched in 2003 to oversee the park project, narrowly avoided dissolution Tuesday. The five City Council members also serve as the corporation’s board of directors. They each get $10,560 annually for their Great Park Corp. work. Mayor Steven Choi, Councilwoman Beth Krom and Councilwoman Christina Shea voted to keep the corporation.

KEVIN SULLIVAN, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Jan 13, 2016 [OC REGISTER]

IRVINE – The Great Park Corp., launched in 2003 to oversee the park project, narrowly avoided dissolution Tuesday.

The five City Council members also serve as the corporation’s board of directors. They each get $10,560 annually for their Great Park Corp. work.

Mayor Steven Choi, Councilwoman Beth Krom and Councilwoman Christina Shea voted to keep the corporation.

Originally, a nine-member group consisting of the five council members and four community members oversaw the park’s construction and planning. But in 2013, the four community positions were cut.

“I think the time has come for us to stop pretending we are something we are not, and that is an independent body,” Mayor Pro Tem Lynn Schott said.

She said she will no longer take the yearly stipend for overseeing the corporation. That money doubles the base pay the council members take home yearly for their part-time positions.

Since the board was reduced to five members, the council has voted frequently on its own recommendations, made as the Great Park Corp. board.

However, Councilwoman Christina Shea said the corporation is needed to shield the city from liability during the park project.

She disagreed with Schott’s interpretation of a confidential memo issued by Jeff Melching, the assistant city attorney, about the legal pros and cons of the corporation’s end, saying that it showed the corporation is needed.

Melching said the corporation owns no property, few assets and has minimal involvement in major contracts concerning the Great Park.

To be a useful shield for the city, the council would have to add members to the board, he said. But Measure V, passed by voters in 2014, bars the city from doing so.

The council voted unanimously to make Melching’s memo public.

Mayor Steven Choi said streamlining the board had made it more efficient. He said he needed more time to consider the implications of dissolving the corporation.

Councilman Jeff Lalloway, however, said that maintaining the board’s current iteration is “absurd.”

An Orange County grand jury last year called the entity a “shell corporation” and recommended its closure.

Contact the writer: sdecrescenzo@ocregister.com

Category: Advocacy

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