How Should the OC Fairgrounds Budget to Better Serve the Community – Evening Meeting on November 14, 2019 (And What to Do With $62 Million in Cash Reserves)

Bullhorn Meeting (1)

The OC Fairgrounds is holding a budget meeting to discuss the 2020 budget and capital expenditures plan during the evening on Thursday, November 14, 2019, starting at 6:30 PM in the Administration Building. Input from the public is needed regarding revenues, operating expenditures, and capital expenditures.

 

URGENT: Requests to the Board to Change Format of Meeting

We need to ask the Board to make this into a public workshop, rather than just a public meeting. a public workshop will allow members of the public to have more than one 3 minute speaking time to make input, and allow them to request and receive answers from staff. These requests need to be sent to the Board well before the meeting so that the format may be adjusted.

 

URGENT: Requests to the Board to Require Meaningful Budget Development Background

In the past, the budget was presented a list of revenues and expenditures which happened to add up. Download 2019 Budget 

A slide presentation provides only a little more detail, but staff avoided being specific on how the numbers were calculated and how money would be spent. Download 2019_Budget_Presentation

The Board needs to receive requests, beginning now, that the public expects to see full backup on the development of the budget numbers and the rationale for the budget priorities.

 

Background on the Budget and Budgeting Process

How Much Money Does the OC Fairgrounds Have?

Over $62 million in cash as of August 2019.  Annual revenues are about $50 million making the cash reserves about 125% of annual revenue.  The OC Fairgrounds can spend as much as they want to on capital improvements and other projects.

Board policy sets the reserve level at 25% of annual operating expenditure which is about $10.75 million in reserves. The OC Fairgrounds is sitting on over over 5.75 times the required reserve level. In comparison, Costa Mesa which is a city of 110,000 residents which operates a city government with police and fire departments has about $55 million in reserves.

 

Ideas for Capital Improvement Projects and Other Needed Expenditures

  1. Traffic and parking study to reduce the impacts of 5 weeks of near constant gridlock during the OC Fair which stops the 55 Fwy to the Paularino exit and causes OCTA buses to detour through residential neighborhoods. A parking study is needed to find places for the 1.4 million OC Fair attendees to park. It's time to work to reduce the encroachment of OC OC Fairgrounds traffic and parking problems on the homeowners. 

  2. A sound wall for the Action Sports Arena to reduce noise from monster truck shows, motorcycle races, and other events from encroaching on the homeowners around the OC Fairgrounds. This projected has been promised "next year" for several years and needs to be built now.

  3. Removing the weeds on the Pacific Amphitheatre berm and putting in native plants which can thrive in the salty soil with little water or maintenance. Sprinklers on the berm have not worked correctly since the project was finished several years ago  and the staff member in charge of the project did not follow up on the problem during the time the contractor was liable to make the project work. It's time to pull the weeds and put in a native garden.

  4. Make needed repairs and upgrades to the Equestrian Center including installing wifi access.

  5. Agreements for use of off-site parking and storage lots for use during the OC Fair. Agreements for shuttle service to and from the off-site parking lots are needed.

  6. A covered riding arena in the Equestrian Center. 

  7. Development of green-space around the property to buffer the sonic and visual encroachment of the OC Fairgrounds on the neighbors.

 

What Are Your Ideas on the 2020 OC Fairgrounds Budget?

Please email the Board with your ideas on how state money should be spent at the OC Fairgrounds and requests for handling the budgeting process. And please join us at the meeting!

 

Contact the OC Fair Board

Board Chair Sandra Cervantes scervantes@ocfairboard.com

Vice Chair Andreas Meyer ameyer@ocfairboard.com

Director Ashleigh Aitken aaitken@ocfairboard.com

Director Barbara Bagneris bbagneris@ocfairboard.com

Director Doug LaBelle dlabelle@ocfairboard.com

Director Newton Pham npham@ocfairboard.com

Director Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia   nrubalcava-garcia@ocfairboard.com

Director Robert Ruiz   rruiz@ocfairboard.com

 

The OC Fairgrounds is also known as the Orange County Fair and Event Center, OCFEC, 32nd District Agricultural Association, and 32nd DAA.


Six 25 Ft Lighted Gate Signs with LED Screens Proposed for the OC Fairgrounds - Costa Mesa Planning Commission to Decide on Mon Oct 14, 2019

Freestanding Signage

Example of proposed 25 ft gate signs with LED screens and lighting.

Contact OCFEC and the Costa Mesa Planning Commission to Put a Hold on This Project

Jason Jacobsen from OCFEC is in charge of the project. Ask him to withdraw the project from the Costa Mesa Planning Commission agenda. He can be reached at 714-625-2958 and jjacobsen@ocfair.com

OCFEC CEO Kathy Kramer can also withdraw the project from the Costa Mesa Planning Commission agenda. She can be reached at 714-708-1510 and kkramer@ocfair.com

Ask the Costa Mesa Planning Commission to place on hold Public Hearing 2 Zoning Application 19-23 for a Planned Signing Program for the Orange County Fair and Event Center Located at 88 Fair Drive because the project is being brought forward without the OC Fair Board having approved the plans, in addition to other problems with the project. You can email the Costa Mesa Planning Commission

Attend the Costa Mesa Planning Commission meeting on Monday, October 14, 2019, at 6:00 pm in Costa Mesa City Hall and ask the commissioners to place the project on hold.

About the Project

OC Fairgrounds (aka OCFEC) staff want the Costa Mesa Planning Commission to allow six new gate signs over two stories tall to be built along with three new lighted wall signs. Link to the Costa Mesa Planning Commission Agenda with all of the documents. New gate signs have LED screens, lights at the top, and include the City of Costa Mesa logo to deceive the public into believing the City of Costa Mesa owns, operates, or somehow manages the state owned OC Fairgrounds. These new signs are incompatible with the existing homes around OCFEC and will interfere with the quiet enjoyment of homes. 

Jason Jacobsen is in charge of the project and did not bring the plans dated January 2019 to the Board or public prior to pushing the item through to the Planning Commission. The public learned of this project when signs stating there was a planning commission hearing about an LED signage project popped up about 10 days ago at OCFEC. The first time the public saw the plans was when the Planning Commission agenda was posted on October 10, 2019. Neighbors have not received notification of the project and no outreach has been conducted. OCFEC staff continue to be indifferent to public input and needs of the neighbors.

It is unclear why new gate signage would be built when OCFEC is undergoing an infrastructure analysis in preparation for another attempt at a new master site plan and is in the midst of a rebranding effort. Any of these projects can change the need for gate signage and how that signage appears and is used. This project needs to be put on hold until other projects which may impact signage are completed. 

OCFEC staff made no attempt to fit into the Costa Mesa sign code except make the signs share the same hideous design in order to qualify as a "Planned Signing Program".  Here's the table from the Costa Mesa Planning Commission staff report detailing how out of line with city code this project is:

Staff Report Table 2

Staff Report Table 2 pt 2

 

The OC Fairgrounds is also known as the Orange County Fair and Event Center, OCFEC, 32nd District Agricultural Association, and 32nd DAA.

 


Traffic and Parking Issues at Forefront in Meeting with Costa Mesa City Council Member Marr

20190727_203805 (2)

Photo of Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) on a residential street in Mesa del Mar during the 2019 OC Fair. 

Friends and Neighbors of the OC Fairgrounds (FANSOCF) met with Costa Mesa City Council Member Andrea Marr to discuss how harmful impacts resulting from activities at the Orange County Fair and Event Center (OCFEC) on the neighborhoods around the OC Fairgrounds can be managed and reduced. Council Member Marr represents Costa Mesa District 3 the district where the OC Fairgrounds is located.

Issues about traffic and parking issues which cause nightly backups during the five week annual OC Fair were a primary concern. While OCFEC staff have acknowledged that the amount of traffic attempting to reach the OC Fair exceeds the capacity of the roadways leading to the property, OCFEC staff have not taken steps to make significant impacts on the problems. Neighbors in College Park, Mesa del Mar, and Monticello Community face five weeks each summer where traffic backups in their neighborhoods make travel difficult. Some residents leave on vacation rather than deal with the never ending problems.

A portion of the never ending traffic back up is due to a lack of OCFEC staff planning for offsite parking with shuttle service. The Experian parking structure located near South Coast Plaza is only used on weekends for OC Fair parking. The only offsite parking during the week is at Orange Coast College across from OCFEC with current overuse of the parking lots causing headaches for College Park residents.

FANSOCF is encouraged that Council Member Marr understands the issues faced by residents of her district and is willing to work with FANSOCF to gather information to work with OCFEC, City of Costa Mesa, Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) and other stakeholders to develop plans to reduce negative impacts on her constituents.


OC Fair Buses and Shuttles Must Stop Cutting Through Residential Neighborhoods

20190727_203805 (2)

OCTA buses and parking shuttles cutting through residential neighborhoods is not acceptable and must end.

On Saturday, July 27, 2019, OCTA OC Fair Express and parking shuttles were cutting thru Mesa del Mar. Two OCTA OC Fair Express and a parking shuttle were photographed on Junipero Dr passing a “No Parking” sign near TeWinkle Park. Traffic was backed up on Newport Blvd going into the OC Fairgrounds causing the 55 Fwy to back up to the Paularino Ave overpass. Buses and shuttles were diverting through residential neighborhoods to avoid the stopped traffic.

There are 47 weeks between the end of the 2019 OC Fair and the beginning of the 2020 OC Fair which can be used to make changes to reduce the traffic problems which crush neighborhoods during the fair.  Possible ways to reduce traffic impacts for the 2020 OC Fair include:

  • Increasing offsite parking with shuttle bus service. Shuttle bus lots can be in neighboring cities.
  • Routing OC Fair patrons to offsite parking lots with shuttle when parking lots on the Fairgrounds are filling up.
  • Ensuring the efficient use of adequate parking during periods of peak attendance.

There are a number of other possible changes which are not listed. What would you do to end buses and shuttles going to the OC Fair cutting through the residential neighborhoods?

Tell the OC Fairgrounds Executive Management and Fair Board to Stop the Buses Cutting Through Your Neighborhoods
OC Fairgrounds executive management and Fair Board claim they do not hear about problems caused by the OC Fair. You can invite Fair Board members to your neighborhood to show the problems experienced during the OC Fair. Share your problems and suggestions for fixing the problems:

Contact Fairgrounds Executive Management 
CEO Kathy Kramer kkramer@ocfair.com

VP of Operations Ken Karns kkarns@ocfair.com

 

Contact the Fair Board

Chair Robert Ruiz rruiz@ocfairboard.com

Vice Chair Sandra Cervantes scervantes@ocfairboard.com

Ashleigh Aitken aaitken@ocfairboard.com

Barbara Bagneris bbagneris@ocfairboard.com

Doug La Belle dlabelle@ocfairboard.com

Andreas Meyer ameyer@ocfairboard.com

Newton Pham npham@ocfairboard.com

Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia nrubalcavagarcia@ocfairboard.com
 

Contact OCTA Customer Relations to Lodge a Complaint About OCTA Buses Cutting Through Your Neighborhood
Call 714-636-7433 and choose from the menu (available weekdays from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm) or use the online complaint form. https://octa.net/About-OCTA/Who-We-Are/Contact-Us/Customer-Comment-Form/

Contact Your OCTA Board Member 
Costa Mesa is represented by OC Supervisor Michelle Steel.

Phone 714-834-3220

District Representative is Tim Whitacre Tim.whitacre@ocgov.com

 
The OC Fairgrounds is also known as the Orange County Fair and Event Center (OCFEC) and the 32nd District Agricultural Association (32nd DAA.)

OC Fair Board Does Not See or Acknowledge Problems with Contract to Write New Board Policy Manual

Check It Out (1)
A special Fair Board meeting was held on July 27, 2019. The only item on the agenda was a vote to approve the selection of contractor MossAdams to consult on updating and revising the Board Policy manual.

Prior to the meeting, a letter had been sent to the Board members recommending that they not approve the contract because of MossAdams stated preference for a particular policy approach known as the Carver Model, which is used in the Board's current policies and has been severely problematic, and is, in many cases, the root cause of the Board dysfunction and the out-of-control management at the Fairgrounds.

Read the MossAdams proposal Download MossAdams Proposal

Read the letter sent to the Board Download 2019-07-25_Ltr_to_Board

Unfortunately, it appears that the attempt to hire a contractor to assist is leading to more problems due to a failure of the Board to recognize important differences between the process that was described to them by Director Andreas Meyer and that for which they will be contracting.

 

Director Meyer’s Description of Policy Development Process

During the meeting, Director Meyer, who chairs the ad-hoc committee on Board Governance Policies, defended the recommendation of MossAdams by stating that, despite their stated preference for it, MossAdams will not be using the Carver Model or even directly writing the policies. Instead, the policies will be developed by the Board and the public in sections, through a series of public workshops and based on best practices and examples from other organizations and cities. Policies from each segment will be developed prior to starting on the next segment.

Unfortunately, this is not what the contract being recommended by Director Meyer actually includes.

 

Actual MossAdams Proposal

MossAdams, in their bid in response to the Fair Board's Request for Proposal proposed one round of drafting of new policies by MossAdams with input from the staff, Board, and stakeholders. The draft would be presented and revised to make the final version of the Board policies. MossAdams does not mention workshops with the owners of the property (i.e., the public), a Board centric process, or the development of the policies in a segmented, iterative fashion. MossAdams proposes a process that will only cost $45,000 (the equivalent of 150 work-hours) over 16 months, or just 9 hours of work per month. It is inconceivable that the intensive iterative process that Director Meyer has described can be performed for that amount of effort.

Per state contracting laws, the contract issued by the Fairground must reflect the bid proposal from MossAdams.

 

Failure to Recognize Discrepancy

During the meeting, it was not clear that the Board recognized the gap between the MossAdams proposal and Director Meyer's description of what would be done. Consequently, it was not clear whether Board Members were voting to approve a contract to cover what Director Meyer was describing or the contract proposed by MossAdams. When the public tried to have the Board address the gap, Chair Robert Ruiz shut down the public and discussion of the gap and approved the contract.

 

Letter Was Sent to Board Addressing the Gap Between Reality and Expectations

Following the meeting, a letter was sent to the Board addressing the gap between the MossAdams Proposal and Director Meyer's description of the process. If the Board responds to the letter, we will share the response with you.

Read the letter sent to the Board Download 2019-07-27_Ltr_to_Board

 

Contact the Fair Board

Chair Robert Ruiz rruiz@ocfairboard.com

Vice Chair Sandra Cervantes scervantes@ocfairboard.com

Ashleigh Aitken aaitken@ocfairboard.com

Barbara Bagneris bbagneris@ocfairboard.com

Doug La Belle dlabelle@ocfairboard.com

Andreas Meyer ameyer@ocfairboard.com

Newton Pham npham@ocfairboard.com

Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia nrubalcavagarcia@ocfairboard.com
 
The OC Fairgrounds is also known as the Orange County Fair and Event Center (OCFEC) and the 32nd District Agricultural Association (32nd DAA.)

How Is the 2019 OC Fair Impacting Your Neighborhood: Ask OC Fairgrounds Executive Management & Board for Help to Solve Problems

Bullhorn Meeting (1)
 
How did the first week of the 2019 OC Fair go for you and your neighbors? Some of what we have heard:
  • Traffic routing and road closures created headaches for Fairgrounds neighbors traveling to and from their homes because changes were made during the day. Neighbors found themselves stuck in the traffic they were trying to avoid.
  • Eastside Costa Mesa was parked bumper to bumper with cars left by people walking to the OC Fair. Trash was left in the neighborhood by the fairgoers.
  • Merrimac Way was used as a cut thru from Harbor Blvd.
  • Maxed out parking at the OC Fairgrounds and Orange Coast College (OCC) caused fairgoers to find other places to park. 
Are You Facing These Problems in Your Neighborhood During the 2019 OC Fair:
  • Are "No OC Fair Parking" signs and parking enforcement needed for your neighborhood? Where are the signs and enforcement needed?
  • Does your neighborhood need OC Fair Ambassadors to pick up trash? If there are OC Fair Ambassadors in your neighborhood, are more needed?
  • Do neighbors need to be given traffic routing maps including restricted turns and street closures? Should neighbors be told when traffic routing changes to plan for trips to and from their homes?
  • Should offsite parking with shuttle service be offered during the weekday evenings of the OC Fair? Hollywood Bowl and Ventura County Fair have been offering shuttle service during the weekdays for a number of years.
  • Is more weekend offsite parking with shuttle service needed?
  • Is there a better way for the OC Fair to let fairgoers know parking is maxed out other than signs on the 55 Fwy and Fairview Rd? How could fairgoers be told before getting to Fairview Rd that parking is maxed out? Where should fairgoers be routed to when parking is maxed out?
What is happening in your neighborhood and what can be done to resolve the problems? What are your ideas?
 
Ask for Help to Solve the Problems
CEO Kathy Kramer, VP of Operations Ken Karns and the OC Fair Board need to hear from you about problems experienced in the neighborhoods around the OC Fairgrounds. Please share your experiences with executive management and the OC Fair Board and include your ideas for solving the problems.
 
Executive Management
CEO Kathy Kramer kkramer@ocfair.com
 
VP of Operations Ken Karns kkarns@ocfair.com
 
Fair Board
Chair Robert Ruiz rruiz@ocfairboard.com

Vice Chair Sandra Cervantes scervantes@ocfairboard.com

Ashleigh Aitken aaitken@ocfairboard.com

Barbara Bagneris bbagneris@ocfairboard.com

Doug La Belle dlabelle@ocfairboard.com

Andreas Meyer ameyer@ocfairboard.com

Gerardo Mouet gmouet@ocfairboard.com

Newton Pham npham@ocfairboard.com

Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia nrubalcavagarcia@ocfairboard.com
 

You can copy leadership@fansocfairgrounds.com on the emails to help us track issues experienced in the neighborhoods and resolution of the issues.


Costa Mesa Neighborhoods Near OC Fairgrounds Need Neighborhood Policing & Reduced Use of OCC Parking Lots

Attention Question (1)
Neighborhoods near the OC Fairgrounds need relief from problems caused by growing OC Fair attendance and a push to have  year round daily use of the property.  Growth in year round use of the OC Fairgrounds has increased traffic, parking in the neighborhoods, and use of parking lots at Orange Coast College (OCC.)  
Problems once only experienced during the OC Fair are now year round problems for the neighbors.  

Steps can be taken to check the problems caused by increased use of the OC Fairgrounds include funding for neighborhood police services and reducing use of OCC parking lots by the OC Fairgrounds.

Fund Neighborhood Police Services in Addition to Traffic Control Services

Contracts between the Costa Mesa Police Department (CMPD) and the OC Fairgrounds provide traffic control services and do not include neighborhood police services to deal with parking, cut-through traffic, and problems caused by OC Fairgrounds patrons. Neighbors have reported difficulty in having CMPD respond to requests for service during the OC Fair. Read the contract between the OC Fairgrounds and City of Costa Mesa for police services. Download Costa Mesa Police Contracts

The OC Fairgrounds needs to fund CMPD services in the neighborhoods during the OC Fair and large year round events. CEO Kathy Kramer is pushing for increased year round use of the OC Fairgrounds, which will burden the neighborhoods even more. With annual revenues over $50 million with a profit of about $7 million (about 14%) and cash reserves are over $54 million, the OC Fairgrounds has the money to protect the neighborhoods from the problems caused by their operations and needs to step up to address issues caused by their operations.

Reduce Neighborhood Disruptions by Curtailing OC Fairgrounds Use of OCC Parking Lots

Parking lots at OCC are now being used year round for OC Fairgrounds events in addition to the five week OC Fair. OCC parking lots have becoming a defacto extension of the OC Fairgrounds parking lots. Events using the OCC parking lots during 2019 are:

  • Tet Festival on February 8, 9, 10
  • Musink on March 8, 9, 10
  • Pet Expo on April 26, 27, 28
  • OC Marathon on May 5
  • OC Night Market on May 17, 18, 19
  • Scottish Festival on May 25, 26
  • OC Night Market on June 14, 15, 16
  • OC Fair from July 12 to August 11
  • OC Night Market on August 23, 24, 25
  • Sand Sports Super Show on September 13, 14, 15

Read the contract between OCC and the OC Fairgrounds for year round use of the OCC parking lots. Download OCC Parking Contract

Use of OCC parking lots during the OC Fair and year round events disrupts the neighborhoods near the parking lots with noise from patrons coming and going carrying into the neighborhoods. Patrons leaving late at night may be intoxicated which has its own set of problems to deal with. Problems from the five week annual OC Fair are now occurring throughout the year.  CEO Kathy Kramer is pushing for growing attendance of the OC Fair and conducting events every day of the year which will grow the problems for the neighbors including increasing use of OCC parking lots.

Steps need to be taken to protect the neighbors from problems caused by ongoing use of OCC parking lots by the OC Fairgrounds:

  • Reduce use of OCC parking lots for year round event parking. Events at the OC Fairgrounds need to be parked at the OC Fairgrounds.

  • The OC Fairgrounds needs to pay for staff in OCC parking lots at the conclusion of events to move patrons out quickly and quietly.

  • Place DUI patrol in the OCC parking lots to deal with patrons who are too drunk to drive.

  • Create a way to have an immediate response to and resolution of a problem reported in the OCC parking lots. One point of contact to report, resolve and track problems at OCC parking lots caused by OC Fairgrounds events needs to be created. 

Contact the Fair Board

Chair Robert Ruiz rruiz@ocfairboard.com

Vice Chair Sandra Cervantes scervantes@ocfairboard.com

Ashleigh Aitken aaitken@ocfairboard.com

Barbara Bagneris bbagneris@ocfairboard.com

Doug La Belle dlabelle@ocfairboard.com

Andreas Meyer ameyer@ocfairboard.com

Gerardo Mouet gmouet@ocfairboard.com

Newton Pham npham@ocfairboard.com

Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia nrubalcavagarcia@ocfairboard.com

 

The OC Fairgrounds is also known as the 32nd District Agricultural Association, 32nd DAA, Orange County Fair and Event Center, and OCFEC.  

 


May 2019 OC Fairgrounds News: Construction to Worsen OC Fair Traffic and Parking, Getting Fair Share of Sales Tax Revenue & More

Check It Out (1)

In This Issue: 

  • Lack of Planning for 405 Freeway & OCC Construction Expected to Compound OC Fair Traffic & Parking Problems
  • Is a Fair Share of OC Fairgrounds Sales Tax Revenue Coming Back to Costa Mesa & OC?
  • Did the OC Fairgrounds Pass Up on a Share of $18 Million in Grant Money to Improve Emergency Readiness?
  • Over $129,000 of State Money Spent on Personally Motivated Investigations 
  • OC Fairgrounds Sent $75,000 to LGBT Opponent While Trying to Hide Behind Rainbow Flag

Lack of Planning for 405 & Freeway Construction Expected to Compound OC Fair Traffic & Parking Problems
OC Fairgrounds staff did not get ahead of problems arising from the demolition of the Fairview Rd bridge and construction at Orange Coast College. No plans are in place to have more parking lots with shuttle bus service or expanded OCTA Fair Express bus service. Expect traffic to be worse and more Fairgoers to attempt to park in Costa Mesa neighborhoods.

Is a Fair Share of OC Fairgrounds Sales Tax Revenue Coming Back to Costa Mesa & OC?
We started asking questions when we saw that sales tax revenue received by Costa Mesa from the OC Fairgrounds was flat since since 2004 despite OC Fairgrounds revenues nearly doubling since 2004. Sales tax revenue is a major source of funding for local governments. A new law enacted in 2018 makes it easier for sellers to report sales made at the OC Fairgrounds.  Preliminary numbers show an increase from the 2004 numbers and we continue to work on this issue.

Download 32nd DAA Historic Revenue Chart

Download Fairground Flat Sales Tax

 

Did the OC Fairgrounds Pass Up on a Share of $18 Million in Grant Money to Improve Emergency Readiness?
The OC Fairgrounds is a key part of the emergency readiness plans for Orange County and can be used as a shelter site for people and animals in addition to a staging site for emergency and rescue equipment. Gov. Newsom has made emergency readiness a priority and $18 million in from Proposition 68/SB 5 has been allocated to be used to improve emergency readiness infrastructure at fairgrounds. We are digging to find out if the OC Fairgrounds applied for a grant.

Over $129,000 of State Money Spent on Personally Motivated Investigations 
CEO Kathy Kramer targeted two Board Directors and the Chief Financial Officer for investigation for reasons which are unknown.  The bill has climbed to $129,270 with no end in sight.  If there are real problems to be investigated, law enforcement authorities such as the California Highway Patrol, Attorney General, State Auditor, Orange County Sheriff's Department, and other agencies should be brought in. The Fair Board has the legal authority to stop the investigations and has not stopped drain on the public coffers from the nefarious investigations. 

OC Fairgrounds Sent $75,000 to LGBT Opponent While Trying to Hide Behind Rainbow Flag
At its monthly meeting on May 23, 2019, the Fair Board voted to fly a Rainbow Flag over the Fairgrounds.  This despite the fact that the same Board has refused to order Fairgrounds CEO Kathy Kramer to cancel a sponsorship agreement she entered into with Vanguard University that has resulted in over $75,000 in public funds being transferred to the University.

Download Pride Resolution  

Download Contract 32nd DAA Vanguard

Vanguard University, which is affiliated with the Assemblies of God, takes a hard-line fundamentalist Christian position regarding homosexuality. Engaging in a even a chaste romantic same-sex relationship or publicly questioning any of the University's policies on homosexuality are grounds for expulsion.  The Orange County Fair and Event Center (a state agency) entered into a sponsorship agreement with Vanguard in 2018, but apparently did not include state required non-discrimination language in its contract. State law (Cal. Gov't. Code §11135-11139.8) prohibits the state from contracting with groups such as Vanguard University which discriminate.  

CEO Kramer has also given thousands of dollars in free OC Fair admission and concert tickets to Vanguard University in addition to allowing the school to rent OC Fairgrounds facilities on terms not available to the general public.

Did You Know?

  • OC Fairgrounds employees are not paid overtime. All hours worked are paid at the regular pay rate. Download Morales v. 22nd Dist. Agricultural Assn
  • Free admissions to the OC Fair are around 25% of the paid OC Fair admissions.
  • Fair Board Directors can buy an unlimited quantity of general admission OC Fair tickets for $1/each. Former Fair Board Directors receive a lifetime admission credential and can buy up to 30 general admission OC Fair tickets for $1/each. Download Board Director Tickets
  • Spouses and dependent children of current Fair Board Directors receive free admission credentials.
  • A Board Concierge who is a state employee arranges the dinners and concert tickets for Fair Board Directors, their friends, and business associates. Former Fair Board Directors can use the Board Concierge to book concert tickets.
  • CEO Kathy Kramer wants to raise admission prices for the 2020 OC Fair.

Contact the Fair Board
Chair Robert Ruiz rruiz@ocfairboard.com
Vice Chair Sandra Cervantes scervantes@ocfairboard.com
Ashleigh Aitken aaitken@ocfairboard.com
Barbara Bagneris bbagneris@ocfairboard.com
Doug La Belle dlabelle@ocfairboard.com
Andreas Meyer ameyer@ocfairboard.com
Gerardo Mouet gmouet@ocfairboard.com
Newton Pham npham@ocfairboard.com
Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia nrubalcavagarcia@ocfairboard.com

The OC Fairgrounds is also known as the 32nd District Agricultural Association, 32nd DAA, Orange County Fair and Event Center, and OCFEC.  


$75K Paid to Employee to Not Show Up for Work at OC Fairgrounds Requires OC Fair Board to Clean House

Toilet Paper (2)

The OC Fair Board (aka 32nd District Agricultural Association or 32nd DAA or Orange County Fair and Event Center or OCFEC Board) will meet on March 28, 2019, to consider taking action regarding the 2016 audit of the OC Fairgrounds conducted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), the parent state agency of the OC Fairgrounds. The audit found an employee paid over $75,000 in cash and benefits to not show up for work for about eight months, which was deemed to likely be an illegal contract by CalHR, the human resources department for state employees. An unredacted copy of the audit is available for download. An audit timeline prepared by CEO Kathy Kramer and her staff was presented at the February 2019 Fair Board meeting. CEO Kramer and her staff have attempted to create confusion and obstruction around the audit all while stalling Board action on the audit for nearly two years. 

Download CDFA Unredacted 2016 Audit   

Download Audit Staff-Reports-Combo1 

Understanding the facts about the the audit and why the Fair Board needs to clean house immediately can be broken down into four separate issues:
Issue 1: The propriety of the actions that resulted in the conclusion by CDFA and CalHR that the 32nd DAA entered into an illegal contract with a former employee.
Issue 2: The handling of the audit and interactions with CDFA and CalHR.
Issue 3: The disclosure of the audit to the Board and the failure to keep the Board in the loop regarding the audit.
Issue 4: Failure to accept the findings of the audit and address the issues raised.

CEO Kramer wants to confuse and conflate these four issues so that everyone will focus on Issue 1, and ignore the circumstances regarding Issues 2, 3, and 4, and what they say about her management of the OCFEC.

Issue 1: The propriety of the actions that resulted in the conclusion by CDFA and CalHR that the 32nd DAA entered into an illegal contract with a former employee.
CEO Kramer continues to try to re-litigate the propriety of her and staff's actions and characterize them as a mistake involving state employment procedures. This is a false narrative, intended to confuse the Board and others.

  • CEO Kramer made the same arguments to CalHR and they rejected them. CalHR has concluded that the contract is likely an illegal gift of funds.
  • CEO Kramer claims that prior outside counsel approved similar agreements, but has not provided such agreements to demonstrate that they were approved or comparable. Despite this, the Board accepts her unsupported claim that similar prior arrangements had been approved. Given the seriousness of these allegations, the Board should demand documentary proof of the defense.

CEO Kramer has attempted to portray paying an employee to not show up for work as a minor administrative matter, which the issue is not. This is a matter regarding misappropriation of public funds. Misappropriation of Government Funds is a felony in California (Cal. Penal Code §424), if done with knowledge of, or gross negligence regarding, the illegality of the appropriation or the lack of authority of the person making the appropriation to do so.

  • CEO Kramer was grossly negligent in that she did not take the least action to verify that this separation agreement was legal. She never sought the opinion of CalHR, or of the Attorney General's office, either one of which could have been done with a five minute phone call.
  • The separation agreement resulted in a cost to the 32nd DAA which exceeded Kramer's delegated authority, i.e., she knowingly made the misappropriation despite the fact that she knew she lacked the authority to do so.

Issue 2: The handling of the audit and interactions with CDFA and CalHR.
There is a substantial and unexplained gap in the timeline of this audit. CEO Kramer attempted to stiff-arm and delay the audit. Only when she know longer had any choice was the audit completed. This is not the behavior of a CEO who is cooperating with state officials.

The Board needs to get an explanation for gaps in the timeline and receive and review all communications or the lack thereof, between CDFA and the 32nd DAA to determine if CEO Kramer's interaction with the CDFA was in keeping with the standards that the Board would expect of the 32nd DAA's CEO.

Issue 3: The disclosure of the audit to the Board and the failure to keep the Board in the loop regarding the audit.
It is unacceptable that an audit uncovered a provisional finding of a major impropriety and this was not brought to the immediate attention of the entire Board. This calls into question the fitness of the former Board chairperson, who still sits on the Board to hold the position.

The Board needs to understand why two Board Chairs did not share this information with the entire Board membership and correct policies and guidelines to ensure that such critical information is not, in the future, hidden from the Board. 

The Board needs to find out why CEO Kramer did not disclose the final findings of the audit to the entire Board prior to her annual performance review. Willful failure to disclose such highly relevant information to the Board is suspicious and calls into question the ability of the Board to rely on the CEO to provide them with ALL information that they need to perform their oversight function.

Issue 4: Failure to accept the findings of the audit and address the issues raised.

The failure of CEO Kramer to accept the findings of CalHR and to continue to argue the propriety of the finding is indicative of someone who lacks the ability to recognize failures and take corrective action.

While all of the focus has been on the misappropriation of public funds, the audit made a fourth recommendation:
The 32nd DAA should comply with FAC 4051 by establishing written policies and procedures over its contracting processes.

Cal. Food & Agr. Code §4051 directs the 32nd DAA Board to establish and maintain written procedures for contracting. There is ample reason to recognize that current procedures are inadequate or not being applied:

  • There are multiple examples of expenditures of funds by the CEO and her staff which violate the established delegation of authority.
  • There have been identified examples of unilateral and retroactive changes to contract terms by the CEO without Board direction or knowledge.
  • The CEO has initiated and supported agreements that do not appear to be in the best interest of the state or which violate state policies or state law.
  • The amount of charges o the state authorized credit card (more than $2.3 million in 2018) raises serious questions as to whether state rules of the use of the card are being followed.

State law grants the Board authority over the affairs of the association and can make all necessary bylaws, rules, and regulations for the government of the association. (Look up Food and Agriculture Code section 3965)  It is time to clean house. 

Contact the OC Fair Board

Chair Robert Ruiz rruiz@ocfairboard.com

Vice Chair Sandra Cervantes scervantes@ocfairboard.com

Ashleigh Aitken aaitken@ocfairboard.com

Barbara Bagneris bbagneris@ocfairboard.com

Doug La Belle dlabelle@ocfairboard.com

Andreas Meyer ameyer@ocfairboard.com

Gerardo Mouet gmouet@ocfairboard.com

Newton Pham npham@ocfairboard.com

Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia nrubalcavagarcia@ocfairboard.com


Restricting Public Comments & Hiring a Private Investigator on February 2019 OC Fair Board Meeting Agenda but No Action on State Audit

Cow Question (2)

 

The agenda for the Thursday,  February 28, 2019, OC Fair Board (aka Orange County Fair and Event Center, OCFEC, 32nd District Agricultural Association) meeting has been published.  The Board meets at 9 AM at the Administration Building off Arlington Drive. If  you cannot make the meeting, please email comments to the Board Directors using the emails at the end of this post.

Agenda available here Download 19_02_February_Agenda1

Complete agenda packet available here https://ocfair.com/publicmeetings/board-of-directors-meeting-february-28-2019/

Refusing Action on State Audit Which Found Employee Paid to Not Show Up for Work 

No action can be taken by the Board regarding the 2016 state audit which found an employee paid over $70,000 to not show up for work for approximately eight months because the matter has been agendized as "Information Only" notwithstanding either the seriousness of the matter or the multiple requests by the public for action to resolve the issues which permitted this to occur. The same management are in place now as were during 2016 when the deal went down.  The Board refuses to take action to address the underlying issues which allowed these actions to occur. Download CDFA Unredacted 2016 Audit

Restricting Public Comments

New restrictions on public comment are in place for the February 2019 meeting. The new policy called a "Statement of Meeting Decorum" limits what can be said during public and agenda item comment:

[. . .] To encourage and respect all views, The OC Fair & Event Center requests that members of the public not engage in personal attacks, profanity, obscenity, hateful or abusive language, physical violence or threatening behavior. Furthermore, and to further the purposes of the Act, members of the public are requested to direct their comments directly to the Board of Directors as a whole.

It is clear that enforcement of these restrictions will violate the law. The U.S. Supreme Court specifically ruled in 1971 in Cohen v. California that governments cannot restrict speech in the interest of public decorum.  Download Cohen v. California 403 US 15

Hiring a Private Investigator

Over $58,000 was spent with private investigation firm Morley Group during 2018 without either a contract being brought forward to the Board or an explanation given of why a private investigator needed to be hired.  Morley Group is being given another no bid contract SA -051-19YR (agendized in the Standard Agreements file as "professional services" in an attempt to conceal the true nature of the contract) for $49,000 for the period from February to July 2019.  There is no need for the Morley Group contract as the OC Fairgrounds can request the Orange County Sheriff's Department, Costa Mesa Police Department, California Highway Patrol and/or other state investigative services to conduct investigations.  

Board Director Nick Berardino requested hiring an outside performance auditor and presented a report at the May 2018 Board meeting.  Download Performance Auditor Request Board Directors requested action to move ahead on a performance auditor while staff have not followed up on the request. Now is the time to bring in an outside performance auditor and request the State Auditor for assistance. If there is money for a private investigator, there is money for a performance auditor. Maybe the performance auditor can find out why the private investigator was hired and report back.

Video Recording of Meetings

Board meetings are held on Thursday mornings at 9 AM, when few people can attend.  Board intent was to look into both live streaming and recording of meetings for later playback, but the agenda says "video recording." Staff and at least one Board Director have used the specific wording of an agenda item to throttle the intentions of Board Directors on prior matters.  A push needs to be made to have live streaming of meetings and archiving of meeting records despite wishes of staff and some Board Directors to the contrary. 

Increasing Oversight of Requests for Proposals and Capital Projects

A number of surprises in requests for proposals (RFP's) and capital projects have come to light in the past few months. Several examples are:

  • Staff entered into a legally binding storm water management plan (SWMP) with the State Regional Water Quality Control Board (SRWQCB) in 2016, spent over $80,0000 on storm water consulting services, received a notice of violation for allowing runoff water from operations to enter the storm drain during 2018, and failed to let the Board know what was going on. Members of the public let the Board know about the SWMP in late 2018.
  • Nature and scope of the effort undertaken by staff to rebrand the property was unknown to several Board Directors and the public until October 2018 at which time the contract was in place and work had been started.  Staff had written the scope of work without Board or public input. The contract left out the Equestrian Center and tilted the process towards becoming an events and entertainment center.
  • Staff publicly stated that the much needed sound wall for the Action Sports Arena (ASA) was not planned to be built despite appearing in the budget for several years. Estimated costs of the sound wall are around $1 million, which is a small portion of the over $50 million in cash reserves. Staff had been leading on the Board and neighbors about building the Action Sports Arena sound wall.

Board Directors have requested to have input and oversight over how public money is spent on contracting and capital projects.  This is a good thing. 

Relocating A4 Skyhawk from Orange County Civic Center to OC Fairgrounds

Plans are being made to relocate the A4 Skyhawk currently located in the plaza at the Orange County Civic Center to the OC Fairgrounds and to place the plane near Heroes Hall Veterans Museum which would allow the plane to be used as part of the museum. Watchful eyes of the public are needed to insure that staff don't create an obstacle to this project. This is a great project. Are there other historic items which could be moved to the OC Fairgrounds?

Contact the OC Fair Board

Chair Robert Ruiz rruiz@ocfairboard.com

Vice Chair Sandra Cervantes scervantes@ocfairboard.com

Ashleigh Aitken aaitken@ocfairboard.com

Barbara Bagneris bbagneris@ocfairboard.com

Doug La Belle dlabelle@ocfairboard.com

Andreas Meyer ameyer@ocfairboard.com

Gerardo Mouet gmouet@ocfairboard.com

Newton Pham npham@ocfairboard.com

Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia nrubalcavagarcia@ocfairboard.com