Pacific Amphitheatre

Why Doesn't the Fair Board Clean Up Messes Made by Executive Management & Staff?

Toilet Paper (2)

The letter posted below was sent to the OC Fairgrounds (aka Orange County Fair and Event Center or OCFEC) in February 2018 after Executive Management and the Board worked together to conceal information regarding a bid protest in which allegation were made regarding misconduct.  Concealment of the bid protest documents and other troubling questionable actions since 2015 raise questions such as:

  • What motivates these actions?
  • Who benefits from these actions?
  • What are the benefits received from these actions?
  • What do Board members gain by not fixing problems brought to their attention?

Here's the letter:

I am in receipt of the letter dated February 1, 2018, from the 32nd District Agricultural Association (32nd DAA) responding to my request of January 22, 2018, made under the California Public Records Act (Cal. Gov. Code §6250, et seq.). Yet again, the 32nd DAA has refused to produce documents in a timely manner which are known to be in their possession.

This refusal, which I have specifically addressed in a separate letter, is part of a series of dubious and suspect actions by the 32nd DAA, including efforts to hide its questionable activities, a pattern which started in, at least, 2015. These problematic actions or efforts to hide those actions have included:

Embarking on a complicated scheme to manipulate the bidding, contracting and financial systems by, without rational basis, revising the long-standing way in whichthe contract for Independent Sound Monitoring was structured and thus creating artificially high rates for those services, which are required to comply with multiple legal settlements and City of Costa Mesa noise limits:

During 2016, Executive Management worked with a consultant to alter the costs, terms and budget of the Independent Sound Monitoring services. This had the effect of artificially inflating rates by over 100% above what had been charged in the past for these same services. The artificially inflated rates garnered complaints from event promoters billed for the services about the sudden rate increase. Executive Management who had originated the contract changes that caused the rate increase used the rate increase to effectively terminate the long-standing and successful procedures and relationship with the existing Independent Sound Monitor. Executive Management then appointed an unqualified Sound Monitor, who was under direct control of Executive Management, to supersede the Independent Sound Monitor. The new unqualified Sound Monitor allowed promoters to conduct events unchecked, which was the apparent ultimate goal of Executive Management. This resulted in violation of multiple legal settlements and City noise standards by Fairgrounds events.

Eliminating, in 2016, the authority of the Independent Sound Monitor to require and enforce changes needed to bring sound systems into compliance with multiple legal settlements and City noise limits. This despite the fact that the professional sound monitor is required in legal settlements to which the Fairgrounds is a signator.

 

Engaging in a scheme to subsidize event promoter costs by billing event promoters less than the full amount of services provided and writing off the outstanding balance to a secret account approved by Executive Management from 2016 onward.Scheduling of events known to be dangerous and the subsequent hiding the financial impacts of those dangerous events:

In spring of 2016, Executive Management scheduled a rally for the Donald Trump campaign despite the fact that such events had led to problems at previous locations and the campaign was already notorious for not paying its bills and costs it incurred. Executive Management concealed their actions for several weeks and sprung the event on the Board and Public less than two days prior the event. Executive Management signed the contract without requiring adequate security and law enforcement staff to be paid for by the event promoter. The event ended in a riot which required hundreds of law enforcement staff to contain the riot.

A Board member and Executive Management have engaged in backroom dealing to have the taxpayers of Orange County pay a law enforcement bill from 2016, which exceeded $125,000, which resulted from an event that foreseeably ended in a riot that endangered the homes and businesses surrounding the 32nd DAA property. Executive Management and the Board stalled, obfuscated, and flatly refused to answer questions regarding payment of the bill from the fall of 2016 until the spring of 2017.

 

Engaging in dangerous and hazardous building practices and a multi-year coverup of structural deficiencies which put members of the public at risk:

Executive Management, with the support of Board members, evaded building construction standards including plan check, structural analysis and building inspection by a licensed building inspector during the construction of the nearly 50 ton Workers Memorial by designating the project as an art project rather than a construction project. An unlicensed contractor was permitted to erect the structure using methods which created structural deficiencies which rendered the structure unsafe to be around before the project was completed.

Structural deficiencies in the nearly 50 ton Workers Memorial were concealed for over a year after the structural deficiencies were discovered prior to the opening of the 2015 OC Fair. Executive Management delayed installation of fencing adequate to protect the Public from the collapsing structure until early 2016. Guests at the 2015 OC Fair were put at risk due to the placement of seating next to the structurally unsound memorial without being notified of, or protected from, the hazards. During early 2017, after the state of the memorial finally became known to the public, the collapsing structure was, finally, demolished and rebuilt by a licensed contractor.

 

Turning a blind eye to, or enabling, apparent conflicts of interest involving Board members:

A Board member management was granted oversight and responsibility for direction of a project which could benefit his employer and allowed by the Board to steer the project in a manner which is likely to benefit his employer.

The Board has allowed two Board members who are officers of a private non-profit corporation to solicit and receive donations from vendors and contractors of the 32nd DAA and to use facilities provided by the 32nd DAA vendor for the benefit of the private corporations other donors and members.

 

Compensating, through back-door methods, Board members who are supposed to be serving on the Board without compensation:

State resources have been utilized to fund private catered parties for Board members, their families, friends, nannies, and business associates. Over $60,000 is spent in a 23 day period on gourmet catered meals for private dinners held during the OC Fair. The private catered dinners feature a private bathroom costing over $14,000 for the run of the OC Fair and lavish décor paid for using public money. Countless hours of unaccounted staff time go into the planning and execution of the events. Board members receive free tickets to the best seats in the Pacific Amphitheatre, Action Sports Arena, and The Hangar, including receiving tickets to simultaneous events and more than one event on a given day. Board members have a Board Concierge who is paid staff member assigned to manage the tickets and dinners of Board members.

 

Engaging in and supporting suspect hiring paid for with state funds:

When the position of Vice President of Operations was filled, Executive Management may have made material misrepresentations to the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service regarding the nature and duration of the employment of the position. In 2016, senior management of the Fairgrounds may have made misrepresentations to USCIS regarding the nature and duration of the work for which Mr. Ken Karns was hired including possibly asserting at certain points that he was hired as a temporary management consultant. Additionally, legal costs to obtain two separate USCIS clearances for this individual were paid for by the 32ndDAA. The Board has been made aware of these actions and has refused to act.

 

Attempting to increase revenues by evading legal agreements with the apparent support and encouragement of Board members:

Legally binding environmental mitigation measures and a 2012 legal settlement were ignored in order to increase revenues from the 2017 OC Fair by planned increases in seating capacity at the Pacific Amphitheatre. When confronted with documentary evidence of these actions during a Board meeting, Board members and Executive management denied the actions, accused members of the public who raised the issue of fabrication, and encouraged staff in the room to join the denialand disparagement which was taking place. After pressing the matter, an agreement was reached which resulted in compliance with the terms of the mitigation measures and legal settlement. Attempts to obtain information regarding the decision made to undertake this course of action were obstructed and continue to be obstructed, including blatant and obvious evasion and delay in response to reasonable public records requests.

This pattern and practice of bad behavior is costly and detrimental to the financial health and reputation of the 32nd DAA, but is reflective of a culture in which secrecy, confidentiality and a resistance to full disclosure to the public is reflexive and endemic. This latest attempt to hide the details of the bid protest of the proposed contract award to Ticketmaster are not going to work because facts of what happened and how it happened will be revealed. Concealing problems and attempting to contort the facts does not work and makes the problem worse.

I implore the Board to embrace openness and transparency, even if this means that changes in 32nd DAA leadership may be needed. If the fact that you've been appointed as stewards of the public in overseeing the 32nd DAA is insufficient motive to do this, then the long term financial and reputational risks to the 32nd DAA from this behavior should be more than enough incentive.

 

 

 


March 22, 2018 Fair Board Meeting Agenda (Thursday at 9 AM by Choice)

Fair Board Meeting (2)

The complete agenda is available here 

https://ocfair.com/public-information/public-meetings/

More information including copies of contracts listed in the agenda will be available on the  Monday before the Thursday 9 AM Board of Directors meeting.  There is no significant update on the Master Site Plan process even though work is continuing in the back rooms without the public being asked to participate. 

Issues to watch are:

Contract amendment for Spectra, the onsite caterer which holds the alcohol license and operates the Orange County Market Place.  Update on the struggling Orange County Market Place. (Agenda Item 9B) A copy of the current contract with Spectra and for the OC Market Place are available on the Fairgrounds Documents Page. 

Centennial Farm Foundation Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Issues: Centennial Farm Foundation is legally separate from Centennial Farm and does not own, operate, or provide a significant source of funding for Centennial Farm. Centennial Farm Foundation has been asked to sign an MOU formalizing the relationship with the OC Fairgrounds (Orange County Fair and Event Center) and has not signed the MOU after a long wait. The Board may take action regarding the MOU at this meeting which is not expected to make a significant change in operation of Centennial Farm. 

California Assembly Bill 2396 Discussion: This is a bad bill which allows conflicts of interest and removes competitive bidding rules, among other changes. Kill the bill!

Committee/Task Force/ Liaison Reports will be given on these areas (Agenda Item 9A):

Pacific Amphitheatre Operation Evaluation & Review Task Force (Director Berardino, Director Tkaczyk): This task force hired the former manager of the Pacific Amphitheatre under Nederlander when the noise problems occurred to assist the task force in reviewing Pacific Amphitheatre operations and making recommendations for changes. A no-bid contract was used for the hiring.

Centennial Farm Foundation Board (Director Cervantes)

Heroes Hall Veterans Foundation Board (Director Berardino, Director LaBelle): Note that Heroes Hall Veterans Foundation does not own, operate or provide a significant source of funding for the Heroes Hall Museum. 

 Financial Monitoring Committee (Director Pham, Director Mouet)

 Legislative Monitoring Task Force (Director Berardino, Director Aitken)

 Master Site Plan Task Force (Director La Belle, Vice Chair Ruiz)

 Tenant Liaison Committee (Director Tkaczyk, Director Berardino)

 Equestrian Center Task Force (Director Aitken, Director Tkaczyk)

 

Questions or Comments can directed to:

CEO Kathy Kramer kkramer@ocfair.com

OC Fair Board Directors Added May 3, 2018

Chair Barbara Bagneris bbagneris@ocfairboard.com
Vice Chair Robert Ruiz rruiz@ocfairboard.com
Ashleigh Aitken aaitken@ocfairboard.com
Nick Berardino nberardino@ocfairboard.com
Sandra Cervantes scervantes@ocfairboard.com
Doug La Belle dlabelle@ocfairboard.com
Gerardo Mouet gmouet@ocfairboard.com
Newton Pham npham@ocfairboard.com
Stan Tkaczyk stkaczyk@ocfairboard.com

Public records requests can be submitted to cpra@ocfair.com

 


Master Site Plan: "Development Report"

When Everything is for Sale (1)

The Master Site Plan process is a revenue centered process, not a community, education, agriculture, or recreation centered process.  This is the section from the winning proposal for the Master Site Plan process which discusses the plans for development of the Master Site Plan. It should be noted that multiple requests have been made for documents regarding this work and no documents have been produced. [A] This section is from pgs. 24-25 of the C. H. Johnson Consulting, Inc. proposal:

TASK 8 – MASTER SITE PLAN DEVELOPMENT

This task will produce a Master Site Plan Report containing summary of key findings and initial recommendations for planning and future use of the Fairgrounds. Our recommendations will stem from a thorough understanding of background data, community input, operational and facilities optimization, market demand, and the OCFEC mission, thereby translating community-based programming and operational strategies into physical place-making that serves the County for generations to come.

The master site planning will include evaluation of local market demand to formulate and evaluate alternative approaches to uses, relationship of uses, phasing, and integration of existing activities.

The cohesive development of a comprehensive, data-driven, visionary MSP will be the culmination of the well- established fluid exchange of information (data) and ideas from the Internal and Community Stakeholders which will empower the 32nd District Agricultural Association’s Board of Directors to make the most informed decisions regarding the future of how OCFEC will fulfill its Mission Statement: “Celebration of Orange County’s Communities, Interests and Heritage.”

TASK 8.1 – MASTER SITE PLAN

Following the Options Workshop/Meetings, and based on additional input from internal and community stakeholders, we will prepare a Master Site Plan with initial recommendations for future use of the OCFEC site and facilities.

Our team’s approach to physical master planning will stem from an understanding of local conditions and an intimate relationship with the site, including topography, drainage, existing uses, relationship to surroundings, and the social context of human activities. It will incorporate sustainable, low impact development techniques that will allow a more intensified program of uses to “sit lightly” on the land. The master plan will be suitable as a basis for detailed site planning and entitlement processing to be conducted as part of a future contract.

The master planning process will translate community-based, evidence-driven programming and operational strategies into physical place-making. This will include alternative land use concepts that describe different approaches to uses, relationship of uses, phasing, and integration of existing activities.

  • Establish zones for County Fair and other major events, active and passive open space, neighborhood and community destinations and recreation, and economic “drivers” including an optimized mix of new infill development.

  • Integrate usable buildings and outdoor spaces that will provide efficiency and serve as high-functioning venues for community activities.

  • Address site drainage through sustainable system integrated into the roadway and open space network.

  • Incorporate sustainable landscape strategies and a multi-purpose open space system.

  • Design for walkability and interconnected urban form and compact relationship of complementary uses.

  • Create possibilities for a hierarchy of circulation, entry, identity, and image for key landmarks, with more private or support uses buffered and served by more minor roadways.

TASK 8.2 – PREPARE REPORT DELIVERABLES

The Consulting Team, in conjunction with the Executive Management Team and Key Management Support, and Master Site Plan Committee, will prepare drafts and a final fully documented 10-Year OCFEC Master Site Plan that addresses the best options for the District and addresses all of the key issues and planning process listed in your RFP. A presentation will be made to the full Board of Directors for review prior to implementation.

 

[A] The documents showing the work performed may have been disposed of or in the custody or control of another unnamed state or local agency or may not be able to be located according to CEO Kathy Kramer. 

Contact CEO Kathy Kramer at kkramer@ocfair.com

Contact VP of Operations Ken Karns who is in charge of the Master Site Plan at kkarns@ocfair.com

Contact Fair Board Directors Ashleigh Aitken, Barbara Bagneris, Nick Berardino, Sandra Cervantes, Doug La Belle, Gerardo Mouet, Newton Pham, Robert Ruiz, Stan Tkaczyk by emailing Summer Angus sangus@ocfair.com

C. H. Johnson Consulting, Inc. from Chicago, IL  is the contractor for the Master Site Plan process. A copy of the entire proposal is available on the "OC Fairgrounds Documents" page listed on the right side of this page. We have no idea why the OC Fairgrounds hired a company from Chicago and could not find a planning firm in the Los Angeles-Orange County area or even in California.   

This is one in a series of posts looking at individual Master Site Plan tasks to gain a greater understanding of how the OC Fair Board Directors (Ashleigh Aitken, Barbara Bagneris, Nick Berardino, Sandra Cervantes, Doug La Belle, Gerardo Mouet, Newton Pham, Robert Ruiz, Stan Tkaczyk) and Executive Management want to push the OC Fairgrounds away from being the fairground we currently enjoy. 

 


Over 111 Day Wait for Answers About OC Fair Board Expenses & Still No Answers

2017 OC Fair Aerial View Cropped

The 2018 budget for the OC Fairgrounds was discussed and approved in November 2017.  Budget questions were emailed to CEO Kathy Kramer a few days before the meeting and were not answered. The same questions were asked during the November 2017 Board meeting when the 2018 budget was discussed and were not answered.  Attempts to follow up to receive answers to questions about expenditure of public money have been met with obstructionism.  OC Fair Board Directors are supposed to be serving without compensation and it is unclear why these expenses are needed.

During 2016 and 2017, OC Fair Board Directors received free nightly catered gourmet dinners for themselves and their families; free concert and admission tickets for themselves and their families including tickets to more than one event per day; use of a private bathroom costing over $14,000 for the 23 day run of the OC Fair; and use of a public employee tasked with being the Board Concierge to coordinate tickets, dinners, and guest lists for Directors. The OC Fairgrounds can't answer public records requests but has enough staff to give the Board a Concierge to manage their busy days of free dinners and free tickets. Executive Management, including those who are responsible for overseeing public records requests, are also recipients of the free nightly catered gourmet dinners and concert tickets. 

CEO Kathy Kramer appears to have the support of  the Directors (Ashleigh Aitken, Barbara Bagneris, Nick Berardino, Sandra Cervantes, Doug La Belle, Gerardo Mouet, Newton Pham, Robert Ruiz, Stan Tkaczyk) in keeping this information under wraps as no Director answered the question at the November 2017 Board meeting and no Director has compelled release of the information after being made aware of stonewalling on the part of staff.

What Was Asked & Not Answered

Note: The account numbers refer to line items in the 2018 budget.

Regarding account 5150 Directors Expense budgeted at $11,597, what are the activities, personnel, and other items paid for with this money?

Regarding account 5155 Directors Meeting Expense budgeted at $12,300, what are the activities, personnel, and other items paid for with this money?

What is the budgeted amount in 2018 for the nightly catered Board/Business Development dinners held during the OC Fair? What is the budgeted amount in 2018 for Board Concierge services? What is the cost in 2018 of the complimentary parking and OC Fair tickets given to the dinner guests?

Will private bathroom facilities in the Board/Business Development dinner area be provided in 2018? What is the justification for these facilities given that the dinner attendees walk past a bathroom on their way into the event?

Has there been consideration of replacing the area used for the nightly Board/Business Development dinners with a revenue generating activity such as space rentals to concessionaires and vendors or creating a restaurant open to the Public? The restaurant would allow OC Fair patrons to dine on the same food as the 32nd DAA Board members while generating revenue for the 32nd DAA.

What are the costs including face value of tickets and staff time to fill orders associated with Directors and their families receiving complimentary tickets to the events held in the Pacific Amphitheatre, The Hangar, and Action Sports Arena in 2018?

Will Directors be able to receive tickets to more than one event in the Pacific Amphitheatre, The Hangar, and Action Sports Arena per day in 2018? What is the face value of the tickets received from attending more than one event per day in the Pacific Amphitheatre, The Hangar and Action Sports Arena?

Will the Executive Management Team be gifting themselves complimentary tickets to the Pacific Amphitheatre, The Hangar, and Action Sports Arena in 2018? What is the face value of the tickets gifted to the Executive Management Team?

Has there been consideration of relocating Directors from the premium pit seats to less expensive seats and placing all of the pit seats on sale to increase revenue for the 32nd DAA? This move would generate revenue for the 32nd DAA while reigning in costs.

Contacting the OC Fairgrounds

Public records requests can be submitted to cpra@ocfair.com

CEO Kathy Kramer can be reached at kkramer@ocfair.com

Board Director Email Addresses Added May 3, 2018

Chair Barbara Bagneris bbagneris@ocfairboard.com
Vice Chair Robert Ruiz rruiz@ocfairboard.com
Ashleigh Aitken aaitken@ocfairboard.com
Nick Berardino nberardino@ocfairboard.com
Sandra Cervantes scervantes@ocfairboard.com
Doug La Belle dlabelle@ocfairboard.com
Gerardo Mouet gmouet@ocfairboard.com
Newton Pham npham@ocfairboard.com
Stan Tkaczyk stkaczyk@ocfairboard.com

 

 

 

 


Did You Know the Pacific Amphitheatre Changed California CEQA Law?

Cow Sign Question (2)

On December 1, 1986, the California Supreme Court upheld the rights of Costa Mesa neighbors to sue the OC Fairgrounds over problems caused by the construction of the Pacific Amphitheatre. The case Concerned Citizens of Costa Mesa, Inc. v. 32nd District Agricultural Association http://resources.ca.gov/ceqa/cases/1986/costa_mesa_120186.html granted the neighbors an additional 180 days to bring their case because the OC Fairgrounds (32nd District Agricultural Association) had presented one project to the neighbors and built an entirely different project.

The Pacific Amphitheatre was built facing a into the neighborhoods instead of facing away from the neighborhoods, had the seating capacity doubled,and increased in size from 6 to 10 acres.

This California Supreme Court case Concerned Citizens of Costa Mesa v. 32nd Dist. Agric., 727 P.2d 1029, 42 Cal. 3d 929, 231 Cal. Rptr. 748 (1986) is a case which continues to be cited to this day. This case also teaches why it is important to participate in the CEQA process and to do so in writing.


2nd Pacific Amphitheatre Settlement Protects the Neighborhoods

Oops Man Question (2)

In 2012, the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society reached a settlement with the OC Fair Board regarding the site plan for the Pacific Amphitheatre remodel in which the berm was resculpted, a new lobby was built, and the plaza area facing the interior of the Fairgrounds was built. Terms of the settlement agreement include using a qualifed noise monitor and maintaining a tracking system for noise complaints.

Download Pac amp finalagreement copy


1996 Settlement with City of Costa Mesa Over the OC Fairgrounds 1991 Master Plan

Women Oops Question (2)

The settlement was ratified at the only joint meeting between the OC Fair Board and the Costa Mesa City Council in July 1996. The agreement capped the number of people allowed on the property at 25,500 when the OC Fair was not being held, require use of leased parking with shuttles when needed, and required cooperation with the City of Costa Mesa on traffic control. Plans for a hotel and off track betting facility were also dropped.

A copy of  the 1991 Master Site Plan is included in the City Atty Report files.

Documents regarding this matter

Download City Atty Report 96-53A copy

Download City Atty Report 96-53C copy

Download City Clerk Changes to Legal Settlement copy 

Download Executed Settlement Sep 9 1996 copy

 


Concerned Citizens of Costa Mesa Settlement Quieted the Pacific Amphitheatre

 

Oops Man Question (2)

The OC Fairgrounds built the Pacific Amphitheatre facing into the neighborhoods, with twice as many seats as what the neighbors were told, and on a 10 acre footprint instead of a 6 acre footprint. The Pacific Amphitheatre was operated by Nederlander, which proceeded to book hard rock acts which were very loud, which blew out the neighborhoods with the noise. Nederlander and the Fairgrounds did not coordinate well, which led to Nederlander concerts jamming City streets and people parking in the neighborhoods. The Concerned Citizens lawsuits took over a decade to resolve and ended with noise limits placed on the Pacific Amphitheatre. Nederlander and the Fair Board claimed that the noise limits made the Pacific Amphitheatre unusable. No concerts were held from 1995 to 2003 because no way could be found to hold concerts without disturbing the neighborhoods. The Pacific Amphitheatre opened in 2003 when the Fair Board hired Gary Hardesty to design the sound system and to manage compliance with the sound limits.

Documents related to the matter

Download CONCERNED CITIZENS OF COSTA MESA INC. v. 32nd AGRICULTURAL ASS'N 

Download Concerned Citizens v 32nd DAA 1984 copy


4 Legal Settlements Protect the Neighborhoods Around the OC Fairgrounds

Oops Man Question (2)

There are 4 legal settlements with the OC Fairgrounds which protect the neighborhoods around the Fairgrounds. Each settlement is the product of a Master Site Plan. The settlements are:

1980 Settlement with the City of Costa Mesa requiring storm water runoff management, traffic management, compliance with the municipal code for noise limits and specific types of development, and deletion of a planned commercial development, among other provisions.

Concerned Citizens Settlement to reign in the Pacific Amphitheatre which led to the closure of the Pacific Amphitheatre from 1995 to 2003 and imposed noise limits on the venue, among other provisions.

1996 Settlement with the City of Costa Mesa which imposes a cap of a 25,500 total persons on the property at any time outside of the annual OC Fair, requires the use of leased parking and shuttles to meet parking demands, limits development, and eliminated proposed hotel, restaurant and off track betting facility, among other provisions.

2012 Settlement with the Orange County Fairgrounds Preservation Society to continue the noise limits on the Pacific Amphitheatre, require the use of a trained sound monitor, require a complaint monitoring system for noise complaints, and limit seating in the Pacific Amphitheatre to 8,500 seats, among other provisions.