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Great Park Irvine CEO Michael David Ellzey
Salem-News.com Staff Report
Jack Webb from DRAGNET: 'Just the facts man!
(IRVINE, Calif.) - The debacle stemming from the now-closed and heavily contaminated El Toro Marine Corps Air Station is taking a new direction.
Questions and research about the Marine Corps service record of the CEO of the 'Great Park'; Mike Ellzey, appear to paint an entirely different picture of a man who says it is a real honor to "transform the base into a park for Orange County", (i.e. turn the toxic military station; an EPA Superfund Site no less, into a playground for local families and their young children).
We wondered from the beginning how such confusing matters; park construction and honor, found their way into a single sentence. In case you haven't heard, Marines all over the US who served on this base are sick. Some are ultimately terminal; others have already died. Cancer is generally the cause.
The groundwater beneath El Toro and flowing away from it as it turns out, is laden with deadly chemicals from decades of serious environmental abuse.
It is a sad death knell for a place that once commanded such respect. In military aviation, El Toro's Marines were among the very best in the world for over half a century. Today the place is something between a ghost town and a white elephant.
Several years ago Irvine City Council members Christina Shea and Dr. Steven Choi, serving as Board Members for The Great Park Corporation (all 5 of the ICC members automatically hold a Board seat), were forced to file litigation against their fellow constituents to acquire full access to the resumés of the applicants for the CEO position. They eventually prevailed, even awarded attorney fees, the whole mess costing around $200,000 of taxpayer money.
I know it sounds crazy to anyone knowledgeable about such endeavors, two publically elected corporate board members disallowed from viewing the most critical information necessary in making the selection of their own CEO, not to mention other important personnel and fiscal decisions for a multi-billion dollar venture.
Irvine may be the USA’s safest city for its residents regarding blue collar crime, all of those comfy cookie cutter neighborhoods, but it may also rank up there with the most politically corrupt regarding white collar crime. As Woody Guthrie put it, some folks rob you with a 6-shooter, others with a fountain pen.
This is why local media refer to drawing back the drapes on these things “Behind The Orange Curtain,” it has crypto-fascist elements in the drama. There’s no lack of Wagnerian sturm und drang, and like the soil and perched aquifer contamination that persists to this day at former MCAS El Toro, once you drill down a little you discover the real dirt, the real OC that TV doesn’t show.
What should have happened after that lawsuit was settled was a Department of Justice/FBI RICO investigation, this had criminal racketeering written all over it and since gross sums of federal funds, perky grants and private donations were being comingled, US government intervention axiomatic, right? Not.
Federal and local funds by the millions were already crossing state lines, questionable vendors selected without competitive bidding, plus upper echelon/highly paid employees like Ellzey hired behind closed doors. Larry Agran, master Machiavellian manipulator, mushroomed every significant decision.
Knowing the rollercoaster ride that OC and California fiscal solvency had faced over the recent years, why weren’t local vendors, or at least those with California licenses (thus paying State taxes) hired? Surely they were on par with the out-of-state companies, and employment of California residents and businesses could have been stimulating to us.
Even the OC Grand Jury eventually cried “FOUL” and found this situation unacceptable. Shea and Choi were heroes who deserved medals for bravery and instead got shunned, vilified and smeared in the media by Larry Agran’s Gangbangers. What did Larry Larry Quite Contrary do? He and his pals said that the OC Grand Jury’s Report was not only incorrect but its analysis and conclusions irrelevant! Guess it takes a lawyer like Larry to blow off a not-so-grand jury.
This litigious confrontation evolved from a national search for a CEO, The Great Park in its brief lifespan abject failures in finding a qualified person, one shameful predecessor was rejected due to an extensive criminal history, others pushed by The Agran Gang were dubious choices, still others obviously unfit or disinterested in having their lives inspected. Maybe those who dropped out voluntarily knew more than they publicly revealed having been behind those closed doors, that Orange Curtain.
What infuriated and frustrated Shea and Choi is that the other Board members expected them to rubber-stamp the Board majority’s choices without having been allowed to peruse and research the applicant’s resumés. Ultimately, out of 150 applicants in the search, Agran’s puppets considered only one man and shoved Ellzey down the Board’s throats.
So if its any solace to the Christina and Steven, not to mention the growing tidal wave of suspicious public watchdogs back then, it turns out they were right all along but didn’t know just how right they were about those reservations. Now they will, and we hope those who denigrated them realize just how righteously justified their apprehensions were.
Dr. Choi already served his native country of South Korea honorably as an officer, and TET wishes to publically thank him for his actions in this matter. He reflects the honesty, the core values of this, his adopted country, as he did back home. TET salutes him, not because he was an officer but because we respect and honor courage. Dr. Choi debunks the myth that only women have intuition, he sensed deep wrong, inherent flaws, even though he didn’t have what we’re revealing before him back then.
TET has awarded Christina the honorary rank of Sergeant in the USMC for her exemplary public service and bravery beyond the call of duty. We know that TET is not empowered to do so, many in TET were certainly not perfect Marines and mostly NCOs, but our noses aren’t growing as Ellzey’s snozz, like his girth, surely must be.
This week we hope she accepts the stripes, the Devil Dogs workout t-shirt and USMC emblem we’re giving her as a Christmas present from a grateful veteran’s service group. The USMC tradition is long and we’re renowned for our patriotic willingness to be the first to fight and first to die. She’s tops.
She and Dr. Choi probably deserve a Navy Cross and Purple Hearts: God knows how much courage it took them, putting their asses and community service reputations on the line, weathering retributions, they were both metaphorically wounded by the Agran slimy mudslinging. They raised their hands, went into harm’s way and damned the torpedoes!
As noted, 9 weeks ago Team El Toro (TET) launched an extensive investigation into the personal history and biography Ellzey alleged as his. This was launched ASAP after Salem-News.com published columnist Roger Bütow’s “Irvine Great Park CEO Michael D. Ellzey: Is This Man An Imposter?” 
We’ve performed our due diligence, exhausted our informational abilities to confirm or deny the whereabouts and activities of Ellzey, especially focused upon and honed in on early 1971---late 1978.
The widely circulated and intentionally inflammatory column posted on October 18, 2010 has been sitting as Item #1, at the top of Page #1, on YAHOO®, GOOGLE® and BING® websites respectively for those 9 weeks, not an easy accomplishment for any subject. Via these extensive search engines anyone that typed in his name or a variation would automatically see the column posted right there as they opened up the site. On the internet, these 3 Search Engine Optimization mechanisms and their spiders constitute the worldwide trifecta or holy media trinity: If it’s out there, using all 3 will definitely find it. 
The column was a call for mobilized assistance and a direct challenge to Ellzey’s veracity, asking for anyone who EVER knew Ellzey and could factually corroborate, substantiate or deny his glowing personal historical claims he’s made to his corporate employers and public media to come forward ASAP. Confirm or deny.
We invited browsers to correct us ASAP if we’re wrong when we asserted that he’s a liar: Silence. We also transmitted via mass broadcast email the hyperlink to the column, CC just about everyone in the region, especially veteran-related NGOs. Somebody had to remember this guy, right? Wrong. We tried to the maximum extent practicable to reach out for recon and intell: Nada.
It saturated, it permeated and reached all potential commentators, friend or foe. It is of note that Ellzey never disputed the allegations, made any demand for a retraction or filed a disputative legal writ for remedy though in possession of this challenge.
TET feels it is significant that not one person stepped up that had ever even heard of him and/or found him righteously honorable in spite of his stories about participating in high profile funeral services/honorariums while stationed at the now closed Marine Corps Barracks, Naval Station, Treasure island (San Francisco Bay). Not one person responded who was present for his supposed tear-jerking sob story regarding a subsequent trip to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial either.
No one who served with him in the USMC (either during basic training or at T. I.) stepped up, or could back up his tall tales about personally participating in numerous military funeral services as part of his duties, including attendance and involvement with the coffin of the last Marine killed in combat just before the Paris Peace Accords signed on January 27, 1973: Pfc. Mark J. Miller.
So what is going on here? Michael David Ellzey: The most forgettable man that no Marine apparently ever met, has this man duped OC residents, is he the human equivalent of a Potemkin Village? Maybe Woody Allen’s enigmatic ZELIG? Has he manufactured a portion of his persona, egotistically embellished an image that isn’t sustained by facts when he was really only a low echelon scrivener?
Like Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz) exclaimed when frustrated with Lucy’s crazy, nonsensical antics, we feel that the current Chief Executive Officer of the Great Park has “Got a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.”
Or maybe we need to mime Jack Webb as Sgt. Friday on Dragnet who always uttered to witnesses “All we want are the facts.” Ironically, just like Ellzey, Jack Webb washed out quickly from an Officers Candidate School (OCS) and discharged post haste, not to mention both are wooden, B-level actors….But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
TET would like to acknowledge the emails, feedback, personal experiences, general USMC information special to that era and additional guidance we received that assisted us in our “Ellzey Star Search 2010.” We aren’t just in temporary relationships, many of us stay in touch or create online reunion chat rooms now that the world has shrunk. The type of Red Alert that Salem-News.com and Roger personally sent out went to literally the 4 corners of the globe, to many Marines and their families now living abroad, to high and low-profile veteran support NGOs.
Here’s what we were able to confirm after acquiring Ellzey’s official service record via FOIA. We followed this FOIA procurement with several Q & A sessions through our grapevine, including personally interviewing the Legal Chief’s Office personnel at Camp Pendleton CA and the extremely helpful input from a USMC Lt. Colonel who was stationed at the Quantico Virginia OCS contemporaneously with Ellzey’s 100-hour fiasco back in 1978. More of that and other inexplicable anomalies, Ellzey’s glaring irregularities in a moment.
(1) Who said irony died on 9/11? Ellzey, a San Jose boy, was inducted on April Fool’s Day (April 1st) in 1971.
(2) He went through the usual basic training at San Diego and Infantry Training Regiment (ITR) at Camp Pendleton, then went on mess duty.
(3) Mid-summer of 1971 he was transferred to Schools Battalion, Camp Pendleton and received 9 weeks total training (4 weeks basic administration and 5 weeks law clerk). For those who are non-military, that’s a typical duration sufficient for the basics but by no means very technical or advanced education regarding Military Occupational Specialties (MOS).
(4) He was then sent to T.I. for duty in November of 1971. Which is where he served for just under 4 years, discharged into the Inactive Reserve on January 25, 1975. Then he was determined to be fully INACTIVE (non-reserve) on December 30, 1976 and his records transferred to Kansas City MO.
(5) Odd, but on July 28, 1978 he returned to duty as officer candidate material and after an apparent 6 week appraising/review process arrived at Quantico for OCS on September 11, 1978. He was given the MOS of a Basic Marine (9900). A 3 year “hole” in his life, never mentioned or explained by Ellzey. He rotated out, then back in, then BAM! Out, Out, Out for good! Where was he and what was he doing during those 3 years? Like Nixon and the missing 18 minutes of tapes, this is puzzling and has never been mentioned by Ellzey. It was like he was Moby Dick, he went down as a Sergeant and re-surfaced over 3 years later miraculously as officer material, then quality control (Quantico) got wise and showed him the door for good riddance. Maybe a pre-arranged shotgun appointment, somebody got cold feet and put an end to the marriage?
(6) Within 48 hours of his arrival at Quantico (9/11) he was rejected on the 13th, bounced to the curb and discharged on the 15th. Our very wise Lt. Colonel and other USMC officers indicated that this is disturbing: This could probably only occur if there was a hasty retreat, a 180-degree turnaround, he was suddenly determined by Quantico to be Not Physically or Psychologically Qualified (NPQ). The USMC had 6 weeks to test him, interview him, observe him, etc. and ascertain the appropriateness of his OCS posting (July to September). In this case, his service record does not explain what changed so fast that he got such a bizarre quick hook. 48 hours is light speed for a complex military bureaucracy.
Once again, go to the hyperlink to the Valentine’s Day, 2008 Press Release regarding his appointment as Deputy CEO for the Great Park 
El Toro Images/Video reports
Now that we have many of the facts in our investigation; here are some disquieting questions and comments, inexplicable and/or contradictory things that are NOT military Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Frankly, little if any of Ellzey’s professed history adds up, unless he lied and hid critical details of course:
. (1) Did his father (who he described as a Naval flight officer) or some other individual intervene/petition/lobby to insure that he achieved such a guaranteed non-combat MOS, a cushy desk jockey job the reason he got to “skate free”? What role did such a party play in assuring that he’d basically spend his entire enlistment locally, in his home State of California, go home each night and sleep all snuggy in his own bed? He was posted right in his hometown’s backyard even though Vietnam raged; even though all enlistment Marines got rotated somewhere, overseas, at least out-of-state, how’d he get singled out for such preferential treatment? Coincidence? What role did anyone play in getting him reinstated and fast-tracked for OCS in the summer of 1978 while Inactive?
(2) There is no evidence to support his claims regarding escorting/honor guard duties involving personal, physical transportation of returning Vietnam War dead brought through T.I. There is not a shred of corroborating evidence to prove that he was a significant element in these deceased veteran’s honorariums, funeral services, or even physically present at them. No written proof, no testimonials, media archives and/or photographic evidence to substantiate his specific participation in the transference and honoring of the body of Pfc. Mark J. Miller. He did receive a Meritorious Mast award, but that was no big deal and was typically part of a promotion like his to an E-5 Sergeant.
(3) Ellzey’s initial service period is very peculiar, it doesn’t fit usual enlistment durations. 5 years and 9 months is odd, it could have occurred in the very few cases where a Marine spent his/her entire first year in training. So the usual 4-year hitch became an agreed upon contract, a 5-year one, yet Ellzey did NOT go to any advanced training stations or schools that would have resulted in such an oddly numbered, extended duration. The USMC began allowing 3-year enlistments during Vietnam because it apparently couldn’t get young men and women to commit to the 4-year gig. I know, my self and a few of my close friends from Long Beach CA who joined under a buddy system got the same 3-year clause. Maybe because that 4 years equaled TWO tours and not just one in Vietnam?
(4) TET believes that it has caught Ellzey in an outright lie when he claimed to have served as the Legal Chief at T.I. After hours of historical research, matched against Ellzey’s minimal training and time in grade reflected by his service record, TET believes that Ellzey never achieved that MOS. It appears that he was what that record acknowledges: A relatively lowly Law Clerk, most likely a glorified typist, pencil pusher and file sorter. He probably gave orders to a Corporal receptionist for coffee clutches and the PLO (Permanent Latrine Orderly) down at the end of the hall. TET personally interviewed the Legal Chief’s staff at Camp Pendleton to confirm facts and parameters about the duties, training, responsibilities and rank necessary to hold the title Legal Chief. A Marine, back then as now, must be an E-8 (Master Sergeant) or higher in rank to hold that critical MOS. It requires months of advanced training in various fields because not only complex legal issues arise but this person oversees enormous numbers of personnel postings, acts as the delicate liaison advisor for enlisted Marines, commands a large network/staff of administrative law clerks like E-5 Sgt. Ellzey was. Keep in mind that E-5 was his FINAL rank when made Inactive. The current Legal Chief at Camp Pendleton is a woman, E-9 Master Gunnery Sergeant Black, who was on leave, hence our extensive dialogue with her immediate E-7 (Gunny Sgt.) subordinate. He spoke in what ALL Marines are taught to embrace regarding etiquette with civilians or superiors: “That’s an affirmative no, sir” when I asked if he or anyone else in the office had EVER heard of an E-5 Sergeant as a Legal Chief. He said only if all of the E-6’s and higher had died, chuckling robustly. I’m not sure if we invented “gallows humor,” but being the first to fight hence first to die we understand such warped commentary. 
(5) Why has Ellzey never mentioned what exactly went wrong when he was initially assigned to Quantico Virginia for Officer’s Candidate School (109th Officers Candidate Class), then rejected in 2 days then summarily discharged within 4 days? According to our inside man, that USMC Lt. Colonel who also served as an instructor (Class Sergeant) at Quantico: To be accepted for an OCC as an enlisted Marine you have to have been a 1st Class PFT performer. The Marines assigned to those classes and the attendant long-term complex training were the most physically and mentally fit, the elite, so what was the problem, what soured them on Ellzey so damned fast? There’s no mention of medical difficulties/handicaps in the record, so why was Ellzey sent packing? Did his father or someone else intercede, have any role in his nomination for such candidacy to begin with and upon arrival in Quantico the USMC realized they had damaged goods on their hands, a bad referral? For S-N.com readers, please understand that it was hard to get into OCS back in those days. It was very competitive, the standards for consideration the highest and required a lot of pull, some grand poobah with beaucoup juice who personally sponsor/endorsed his application under the Enlisted Commissioning Program or MECEP.– They had clauses in them that ensured a Marine returned to the enlisted ranks and transferred for active duty somewhere if he washed out. Ellzey went nowhere fast, found to NOT have the right stuff, abruptly discharged back into civilian life without explanation in his service record.
It’s accepted, although it shouldn’t be, that in our society everybody exaggerates. One recent major study said that most Americans lie dozens of times each day. Well, that’s not acceptable either, not when you’re reviewing the purported history of someone empowered so much, some one paid so much, some one trusted so much. When much is given much is expected.
TET, composed of mainly Marines, believes in holding our brothers and sisters to the highest standards. Don’t shoot us, the messengers and real investigators, blame The Great Park flawed cursory selection process, blame Ellzey for finding a hole, some So Cal suckers, some daylight to run through to wealth and the attendant, seductive power of his role. He was the one who wrapped himself in the USMC flag at Irvine City Council and acted indignant, let’s see just what’s really inside that flag once unfurled.
David Whiting (OC Register) wrote that Ellzey was in the USMC from 1970---1976. OK, so maybe Whiting just doesn’t take good notes or Ellzey’s memory is getting fuzzy. Ellzey conveniently omitted mentioning to Whiting that “Lost Weekend” in Quantico too, and maybe he wasn’t proud about it, but he certainly could not have forgotten about something that startling in his life.
Just as a fish begins stinking at the head, the head dude at The Great Park is beginning to smell, and to paraphrase Shakespeare there IS something rotten in the State of Irvine. Embellishing one’s resumé, outright lying and being deceptive shouldn’t get you a $220,000+ per year job with all of that wining and dining, perks, expenses, etc. Then again, Ellzey is a poster child for the Peter Principle where you rise to your level of incompetence in a bureaucracy.
Ellzey doesn’t seem to even give this job his full time, undivided attention, maybe he should change his last name to “LAZY” because he commutes from home up north? It’s déjà vu all over again, seems like the good old days when he served in the USMC and probably slept in his own bed at home.
Always getting the cushy working conditions, air-conditioned offices, little physical effort, you know? Is he on some other payroll too, double-dipping, or have they failed to ask him that one as well? No one seems willing to question him deeply regarding the simplest superficial things, or ask follow-up questions for more insight.
Who knows if there were more appropriate, better-qualified candidates, ones who didn’t have to fudge, who didn’t report or convey bogus experiences, possibly concocted ones? Did ANYONE fact-check or corroborate his bona fides beyond his word, and if not, why not?
Former Irvine City Councilwoman Christina Shea informed TET that The Larry Agran Cabal produced Ellzey as the ONLY choice for The Great Park Board, basically “anointed him.”
Ellzey was promoted automatically (over Shea and Choi’s objections) by Agran’s Board majority to CEO from his previous Deputy CEO position. Shea and Choi had already questioned the fiscal and logistical need for a Deputy CEO. They also objected because his resumé, like the other 150 applicants, had not been reviewed by them during that aforementioned national search. Shea and Choi both hired a private attorney and eventually prevailed in court, resulting in subsequent (too late) access but Ellzey had already been given the nod as noted earlier in this column. 
This divulges and fits as a critical piece in the Ellzey puzzle: He got this job by deceit, via lies of commission and omission, through maneuvering by a political gang intent on controlling the then $1.2 billion (and climbing) multi-year redevelopment. It’s now obvious that city officials with no previous CERCLA (SUPERFUND) history or staff with that experience, a city that would reap nearly all of the tax base and other ancillary rewards, should not have been allowed to take such a significant, dominant role in overseeing this enormously complex base rehab.
The amount of funds in the Board and the City of Irvine’s control invited mischief, cronyism, corruption, embezzlement, patronage, nepotism and graft from its inception. All this came to pass. It should have required an independent Board not christened by Irvine incestuous fiat but perhaps elected directly by the OC voters plus trusted appointees who had impeccable oversight histories. You know, as in publically peer-reviewed, transparently processed experts, not rank rookies. Ellzey wouldn’t have made the first cut, he’d have been rejected if his history had been vetted and verified, had been properly investigated---Exactly what occurred at Quantico.
For unknowledgeable readers, these SUPERFUND remediation sites takes decades, they are complex disasters with multiple adverse impacts that result in literal cottage industries springing up around them. They are veritable cash cows, golden geese, troughs lapped at by trolling corporations. Communities like Irvine end up benefitting financially from this long-term influx of conspicuous consumers attracted like flies to you-know-what.
The carrion-feeders, the vendors and employees, are an economic boon as they freely spend in local restaurants and bars using tax deductible business credit cards and temporary housing……In the enviro-consultants world it’s a function of such massive immigration that we just nod and mutter “Round up the usual suspects.”
One of Ellzey’s first acts (and boy does this guy act) was to, without competitive bids per public law, bless a $10+ million contract for his old buddies up north, WRNS Design Studio. They were part of the oversight scandal that resulted in a scathing rebuke by the OC Grand Jury. The Grand Jury Report about The Great Park cited numerous flaws and conflicts of interest titled “Financing The Great Park: Now You see It, Now You Don’t.”
(See Official Report and OC Watchdog column at this link): 
In the September 22, 2009 OC Watchdog section of the OC Register (reporter Sean Emery), it was revealed that “he was chosen during a private meeting of a search committee led by Agran.” The same OC Watchdog column required the laborious FOIA to get to the mushroomed facts, starting to sound familiar?
One now wonders if, like the previous CEOs who left in shame and scandal, Ellzey, once he’s outed as possibly nefarious and manipulative, he gets the same treatment his predecessors got, as he got at Quantico: The Door.
"I'm a public official, and I stand tall in terms of that scrutiny as a public official," Ellzey stated in a buck- stops-here answer to a series of pointed questions.” October 12, 2010 edition of the OC Register (Great Park CEO Talks) by columnist David Whiting.
TET demands that Ellzey cough up the truth, the whole truth, not Cliff Notes versions, not the media wonks spin or PR flack platitudes nor pithy, self-serving homilies. The buck has stopped rolling for Ellzey. He invited scrutiny now he should produce answers. TET is not the t-balling local media, the ones who never went below the surface. He claims he’s one of us, then ‘fess up jarhead.
He should produce a public statement, signed under penalty of perjury, which gives specific responses to the allegations, the deficiencies and as yet unexplained historical activities and timelines contained herein. If he refuses, we have no other choice than to assume that there are elements of truth in our criticism and analyses, that he’s hiding things and guilty of subterfuge.
Hopefully he vaguely remembers what truth is, or did those two part company a while back also? Well, the chickens have come home to roost. We’re blowing revelry, wake up, stand tall and smell the coffee OC residents.
Or maybe we should be blowing “Taps” for a phony guy who seems more SEMPER FALSUS than SEMPER FIDELIS.