IRVINE, Calif.—The Irvine City Council April 12 passed the first reading of an ordinance that will ban nepotism to council-appointed committees, with one councilman claiming the dais is targeting his wife.
Councilman Larry Agran’s wife, Dr. Phyllis Agran, currently sits on the Irvine Children, Youth and Families Advisory Committee, of which she was appointed by previous Mayor Sukhee Kang. She was reappointed to the seat in March 2021 by her husband.
Each councilor has one appointee to each of Irvine’s commissions and boards.
Councilwoman Tammy Kim brought the item forward, noting a lack of city policy, she said, regarding nepotism for boards, commissions, and committees.
“The entire point of having commissions and having committees is to solicit a variety of voices from the community and providing opportunities for residents to serve,” Kim said during the council meeting.
Agran said that the issue is a political attack against his wife, who, he said, is well qualified as an expert in pediatric gastroenterology for more than 30 years.
“This clearly is intended to deny an opportunity for public service by Dr. Phyllis Agran,” Agran said. “This has nothing to do with nepotism. This has everything to do with politics. . . ,” and it really hurts the children of our city.”
But Vice Mayor Kim disputed the allegations of the move being a political attack.
“We received a lot of calls, making it look like this was political and that this was personal,” Kim said. “That’s not what this is about. This is about good governance. This is about something [where] I will also be held to the same exact standard as I’m putting out there.”
The city’s current nepotism policy only applies to relatives of a councilor being employed by the city.
A new policy, which will be discussed and voted on again in a future meeting, would prevent appointments of those who have a familial relationship to a councilor—including spouses, siblings, cousins, parents, step relationships, and children, for example.
The council voted 4–1 to approve the first reading of the ordinance.
Other Orange County cities have been exploring nepotism policy as well, including Laguna Niguel, where concerns have risen about an outgoing mayor’s son running for his mother’s old seat, and in Westminster, where some councilors have proposed removing another councilman’s son from a set of city commissions.