Fairgrounds Staff

$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


State Audit of Orange County Fair and Event Center Uncovers Employee Paid to Not Show Up for Work

Toilet Paper (2)

 

This post is available as PDF. Download 2016 Audit Accountability Handout

An unredacted copy of the 2016 audit report is available. The audit was conducted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) which is the parent agency of the OC Fairgrounds (aka Orange County Fair and Event Center, OCFEC, 32nd District Agricultural Association or 32nd DAA). Download CDFA Unredacted 2016 Audit

An audit of the 32nd District Agricultural Association (32nd DAA) which operates the Orange County Fair and Event Center (OCFEC) and conducts the annual OC Fair uncovered that the 32nd DAA paid a former employee over $74,000 in wages and benefits after she stopped working for the 32nd DAA in 2016. The audit report concluded that the 32nd DAA “overpaid the employee for work that was not performed and therefore may be considered a gift of public funds”, which is prohibited by the California Constitution. Auditors recommended that while attempts should be made to recoup the funds paid, it was unlikely that the funds could be recovered from the former employee. The 32nd DAA contends that the payments were made to incentivize an employee who allegedly created a hostile work environment to leave the 32ndDAA, although no explanation has been offered as to why the employee was so incentivized and not simply terminated for creating such an environment

CEO Kathy Kramer was aware of the issues raised in the audit which included a failure to update contracting procedures to remain in compliance with statute in May 2018. The May 2018 32nd DAA Board of Directors (Board) meeting agenda included enacting new policies and procedures regarding the issues regarding contracting procedures but made no mention of payment of the over $74,000 to a no-show employee.

The public remained unaware of the audit until late 2018 when CEO Kramer placed Vice President of Finance Adam Carleton on administrative leave. Mr. Carleton is the fifth VP of Finance under CEO Kramer since her arrival at the OC Fairgrounds four years ago. Mr. Carleton alleges he was placed on administrative leave as part of the effort to conceal the audit findings of payment to an employee to not show up for work. Mr. Carleton made the public aware of the existence and findings of the audit. CEO Kramer has not offered any other reason for placing Mr. Carleton on leave, but simply denies it was for this reason. No actions have been taken relating to other senior members of the executive management team including Vice President of Operations Ken Karns and Vice President of Business Development Michele Richards despite serious problems at the Fairgrounds including critical health and safety violations going uncorrected for more than a year and the booking of controversial events which have led to problems up to, and including, a riot at the Fairgrounds.

There is a runaway administration which is trying to operate without oversight and transparency which has placed the safety of the public and financial health of the 32nd DAA at risk. Among these are:

  • Reports from the State Fire Marshal in 2016 and 2018 contained numerous violations which required correction, with many of the issues identified in the 2016 report remaining uncorrected in the 2018 report.
  • A culinary program for high school students was conducted in a kitchen where the fire suppression system was rendered effectively non-functional.
  • CEO Kramer and VP Karns signed off on over $250,000 invoices for the master site plan without receiving the deliverable items.
  • The Fairground was cited for violations of storm water discharge regulations by authorities after an inspection triggered by their washing of animal waste into the storm water system.

CEO Kramer and the management of the Orange County Fairground attempts to operate the facility with a lack of transparency that verges on outright opacity.

  • The Fairgrounds management regularly fails to provide documents requested under the California Public Records Act for months after the requests (rather than the 10 days found in the law) and makes no effort to work with requesters to streamline this process, as required by law.
  • The Fairgrounds management worked with contractors to develop a master site plan which ignored public input and proposed demolition of the Equestrian Center to create an RV park despite the Board and public expressing the need to keep the Equestrian Center, but which captured most of the wish list given to the contractors by Fairground VP Karns prior to gathering input from the public or the Board.
  • Management made a further attempt to reduce the size of the Equestrian Center to provide more space for shipping containers by misleading the Board that a parking lot adjacent to the Equestrian Center would be used for storage and did not state the Equestrian Center was targeted to become a storage area.
  • Management spent nearly $100,000 with a contractor to generate a Storm WaterManagement Plan that legally committed the Fairgrounds to certain actions without ever raising the contracts or the plans to the attention of the 32nd DAA Board that was appointed by the Governor to oversee the Fairgrounds.
  • Recently, management attempted to use state funds to pay for travel by CEO Kramer, VP Karns and VP Richards to Texas despite the ban on travel to Texas using state money due to discrimination by Texas against the LGBTQ community.

The 32nd DAA Board fails to effectively oversee the Fairgrounds, despite being charged with the authority to “manage the affairs of the association” (Food and Agriculture Code §3965(b)). The senior management of the OC Fairgrounds has convinced a number of members of the Board that they are “merely volunteers,” have only an advisory role and should not weigh in on the actions of Fairgrounds Management. These “captured” Board members facilitate the actions of Fairgrounds management, stymie the efforts of other Board Members to do their appointed job, and refuse to meet with members of the public regarding management of the 32nd DAA. Board members are well rewarded by Fairgrounds management with free catered gourmet dinners, free tickets for front row seats to headliner concerts, and free trips to meet with trade association lobbyists in addition to staff providing assistance with furthering the social lives of Board members using state funds.

About the 32nd DAA

The 32nd District Agricultural Association (32nd DAA) was formed after WW II by the state and made responsible for conducting the Orange County Fair which had been held since 1890 by private organizations. A portion of the former Santa Ana Army Air Base was purchased by the state to be utilized by the 32nd DAA. The approximately 150 acre property is currently owned and operated by the state and staffed by civil service employees and state contractors. Annual revenues of the 32nd DAA are over $48 million with operating expenses of about $39 million and cash reserves of about $50 million. The 32nd DAA uses the names “Orange County Fair and Event Center” and “OCFEC” to conduct business. A nine member Board of Directors appointed by the governor oversees the management of the property. California Department of Food and Agriculture Fairs and Expositions Branch under the Division of Marketing Services is the parent agency of the 32nd DAA.

About the Equestrian Center

The Equestrian Center at the Orange County Fair and Event Center is owned by the state and operated by a private company and features eight barns with stalls and offices and five riding arenas. Programs include therapeutic riding, Pony Club to children to learn horsemanship, OC Vaulting featuring gymnastics performed on horses, in addition to riding lessons for jumping, hunting, eventing, and English riding, among other styles. The Equestrian Center is open to the public.

About Friends and Neighbors of the Orange County Fairgrounds

Friends and Neighbors of the Orange County Fairgrounds (FANOCF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation which was formed to foster and support the operation of the Orange County Fairgrounds so as to benefit the interests of the neighboring residents and the public. FANOCF strives “For a Fair and Fairgrounds that is for, and of, Orange County”. FANOCF advocates for uses of the OCFEC property which prioritizes the needs of Orange County residents for educational, agricultural, and community based programming.

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

 


OC Fair Board Meeting - September 27, 2018 at 9 AM

Fair Board Meeting (1)

Fair Board Meeting on Thursday, September 27, 2018, starting at 9 AM in the Administration Building at 88 Fair Drive, CostaMesa, CA. Agenda items include:

  • Costa Mesa City License and Sales Tax Requirements;
  • Public Records Processes;
  • New Safety and Security Board Policy;
  • Scheduling an October Board and Community Master Site Plan Workshop;
  • Property Wide Infrastructure Analysis;
  • Discussion of Storage Solutions.

Complete agenda available at this link

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

Use the September 2018 meeting information.

 

Contact Information to Follow Up on Issues

Contact the Fair Board 

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

Contact CEO Kathy Kramer kramer@ocfair.com

Contact VP of Operations Ken Karns  kkarns@ocfair.com

Contact VP of Business Development Michele Richards mrichards@ocfair.com

 


Coverup of OC Fairgrounds Equestrian Center Attempted Size Reduction Sends the Wrong Message & Only Increases Problems

IMG_1176

In late March 2018, contractors arrived unannounced at the Equestrian Center at the OC Fairgrounds (aka Orange County Fair and Event Center or OCFEC) to fence off a substantial part of the facility to make more room to store shipping containers. The immediate threat of installing a fence to make room for more shipping containers was stopped with the fence removed, but questions regarding who did this, why they did this, how this was paid for, who authorized the fence, and how long this was in the works remain unanswered. Direct questions sent to the Board on April 2, 2018, have been ignored. Records requested on April 5, 2018, regarding the attempted size reduction are being delayed until late June 2018. Board Directors refuse to discuss details of the matter in public. This is the wrong approach which does not serve the interests of the Public who own OCFEC.

The instincts of the Board are to cover up questionable actions and misconduct by Executive Management and staff while criticizing and berating the Public for asking questions. Members of the Public have been threatened with removal from Board meetings and action from the Attorney General in response to asking questions which put the Board on the spot regarding conduct of Executive Management and staff.  Board Directors Barbara Bagneris, Robert Ruiz, Sandra Cervantes,  Newton Pham, Stan Tkaczyk, Ashleigh Aitken, Nick Berardino, Doug La Belle, Gerardo Mouet are teaching Executive Management and staff that dishonesty, incomptency, inexcusable neglect of duty, willful disobedience, and misuse of state property, among other issues, are acceptable and the Board will cover it up for them. What do Board Directors gain by covering up for Executive Management and staff?

The Board Directors continue to delegate authority to act to Executive Management despite Executive Management demonstrating on multiple occasions that they are dishonest, incompetent, inexcusably neglect their duties, are insubordinate, and are discourteous in treatment of the Public, among other issues.  Executive Management have shown time and again that they can't be trusted. What do the Board Directors gain by delegating authority to act to Executive Management who can't be trusted?

California civil service employees are subject to disciplinary procedures under statute Cal. Gov. Code § 19570. CalHR distinguishes between employee performance problems and misconduct. CalHR's Supervisors Guide to Addressing Poor Performance describes misconduct as:

The second category of problem behavior is “misconduct” -- meaning the employee does something that is contrary to the nature of the job or state rules. Threatening violence against a coworker, stealing and dishonesty are examples of misconduct. An employer can take adverse action against an employee who engages in these behaviors immediately without engaging in the corrective phase or progressive discipline. In other words, there is no training course to teach someone how to not steal, employees are reasonably expected to know that this is unacceptable conduct.

Board Directors should require Executive Management to immediately release any and all documents regarding the attempts to reduce the size of the Equestrian Center to create more storage for shipping containers.  The Board needs to stop covering for Executive Management and staff who work against the interests of the Public.

When Executive Management refuses to immediately release the documents, the correct response from the Board is to remind Executive Management that insubordination, among other actions, is grounds for disciplinary action under California law and proceed accordingly.  Get the information out there to the Public who own the Equestrian Center and whose money was wasted on this mess while Executive Management and staff who participated bear the consequences.

And remember, there is no training course to teach someone how to be honest and employees are reasonably expect to know what is acceptable conduct.

Contact Information to Follow Up on Issues

Contact the Fair Board 

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

Contact CEO Kathy Kramer kramer@ocfair.com

Contact VP of Operations Ken Karns  kkarns@ocfair.com

Contact the Governor's Appointments Secretary Mona Pasquil Rogers at mona.pasquil@gov.ca.gov to discuss OCFEC Director performance issues. Fair Board Directors are appointed by the Governor and may be removed for cause by the Governor at any time. (Cal. Food & Agriculture Code § 3959-3960.)

Contact Parent State Agency OCFEC is a state agency under the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA)  because OCFEC is a state run county fair created to support California agriculture. Please refer to as OCFEC as the 32nd District Agricultural Association (32nd DAA) when dealing with the state.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross 916-654-0433 secretary.ross@cdfa.ca.gov

Fairs and Exhibitions (F&E) are under the Marketing Services Division. 

F&E Branch Chief John Quiroz 916-900-5025 john.quiroz@cdfa.ca.gov

 

 

 


Can the Fairgrounds Put More Information About How They Operate on Their Website?

Chicken Scooter Question (2)

Yes, the Fairgrounds could put more information about how they operate on their website. Plans to begin to post more information about operations on the Fairgrounds website were mentioned during a meeting for the 2018 budget. No specifics have been presented as to the types of information to be posted or the changes to be made. Keep asking for more information about Fairgrounds operations to be posted.


OC Fairgrounds Equestrian Center Demolition Proposed to Create 245 Space RV Park

The latest proposal for the OC Fairgrounds (Orange County Fair and Event Center or OCFEC) Master Site Plan shows the Equestrian Center being demolished and replaced with a 245 space RV park which can also be used as a 900 space parking lot. Demolishing the Equestrian Center eliminates the single largest agricultural use at a property which claims to have a mission of  "Celebration of Orange County's Communities, Interests, Agriculture and Heritage [. . . ]". Removing the Equestrian Center is unacceptable and must be taken off the table.

Board Directors (Ashleigh Aitken, Barbara Bagneris, Nick Berardino, Sandra Cervantes, Doug La Belle, Newton Pham, Robert Ruiz, Stan Tkaczyk) and Executive Management  have wasted over $250,000 in Public money on Master Site Plan proposals which do not take into account the needs and desires of the Public and are incompatible with the surrounding neighborhoods.  The time is now to rip up both the September 2017 and April 2018 Master Site Plan proposals and start over with a process which focusses on the needs and desires of the Public who own OCFEC and which includes the Public in the process at the same level of effort as the Board, Executive Management, contractors, and staff. 

View the entire proposal on the OCFEC website or see the two slides about the replacement Equestrian Center with an RV park and parking lot here:

Master Site Plan CHJC-OCFEC-Board-Presentation-April-2018

As a PDF:  Download Master Site Plan CHJC-OCFEC-Board-Presentation-April-2018

RVPark_CHJC-OCFEC-Board-Presentation-April

As a PDF:  Download RVPark_CHJC-OCFEC-Board-Presentation-April-2018-FINAL-DRAFT_040218

If you are already fed up, sign the petition asking to save the Equestrian Center and to start over with the Master Site Plan process which includes the Public in the process. 

Rip Up the 2 OC Fairgrounds Master Site Plans, Start Over with a Public-Friendly Process!

 

How Did This Happen?

In September 2017, a Master Site Plan proposal converting OCFEC to a convention center was presented. (See Board Workshop – Concept Presentation MSP files.)  The Equestrian Center was retained in the September 2017 Master Site Plan proposal. This proposal was helmed by VP of Business Development Ken Karns with Directors Doug La Belle and Robert Ruiz comprising the Master Site Plan Task Force overseeing the project. The Master Site Plan proposal was shown one (1) time in September 2017 and then whisked away to a backroom for changes to be made. Despite the Public begging for additional meetings to be held to allow the Public to have input into changes, Directors Doug La Belle and Robert Ruiz kept the process in the back room and refused to allow the Public to participate in decision making. During the same time, an Equestrian Center Task Force with Directors Ashleigh Aitken and Stan Tkaczyk and retired real estate investor Theresa Sears made statements which led many to believe that the Equestrian Center would be retained. 

 

Converting the Equestrian Center to Parking Creates Millions in Annual Revenue

245 Space RV Park is Sized for Year Round Use

The proposed RV park has 245 RV spaces with restrooms and showers and is across the street from TeWinkle Park, the Skate Park and Bark Park. At 245 spaces, the proposed RV park is in between than the 185 space RV park at  LA County Fairplex in Pomona, CA, operated by KOA, the 195 space Orangeland RV Park in Orange and Newport Dunes located on the Back Bay of Newport Beach, CA, with 382 RV spaces. The proposed RV park can be used year round for both camping by those working at OCFEC events or by members of the public desiring to park their RV in a coastal area.  A little research shows a daily rate of $50 per day is a comparable daily rental rate. A conservative projection of about $1.6 million in annual revenues is made as follows:

  • Total Spaces  245
  • Number of Available Days to Rent to the Public  270 (Remove June, July and August from the public rental schedule to the OC Fair)
  • Daily Rate $50.00 
  • Capacity 50%

Once the RV park is built, there is nothing preventing OCFEC from converting the area to year round use or engaging an operator such as KOA to manage the park.

 

RV Park Can Also be 900 Parking Spaces

The Master Site Plan includes using the former Equestrian Center area as a 900 space parking lot in addition to functioning as RV parking. Parking is a signficant source of OCFEC revenue with the 2018 budget showing $5,305,113 in total parking revenue as follows:

  • $2,758,813 in Fair Parking Revenue (line item 4370)
  • $94,700 in Vendor Hang Tag Parking (line item 4393)
  • $2,161,700 in Year-Round Event Parking Sales (line item 4710)
  • $268,900 in VIP Event Parking Revenue (line item 4711)
  • $21,000 in Preferred Parking (line item 4715)

Download the 2018 OCFEC Budget  Download 17_1108_2018_Budget_Roll-up_CapEx_DRAFT

A revenue projection can be made for a 900 space parking lot using a similar methodology as used for the RV park and shows a conservative estimate of about $1.2 million per year.  

  • Total Spaces  900
  • Number of Available Days to Rent to the Public  270 (Remove June, July and August from the public rental schedule to the OC Fair)
  • Daily Rate $10.00 
  • Capacity 50%

 

Safety of Arlington Drive & New Bike/Pedestrian Trail Jeopardized by New Parking Lot

Davis Elementary School, TeWinkle Park, Bark Park, Costa Mesa Tennis Center, and Volcom Skate Park are also located along Arlington Drive. Arlington Drive is a neighborhood street to be used to school, park and residential use, not for carrying 900 cars to park at $10 car to make $9,000 per day, at a minimum. It is not clear if Executive Management or the Board of Directors have noticed that Arlington Drive is not a major street designed to carry large amounts of vehicle traffic or heavy vehicles such as RVs and carnival equipment. A multipurpose trail for use by bicycles and pedestrians has been added to Arlington Drive in addition to the bioswale. Creating a 245 space RV park adds a minimum of 490 trips across the bike and pedestrian trail to fill and empty the RV park. Creating a 900 space parking lot adds a minimum of 1800 trips across the bike and pedestrian trail. Vehicle trips over the bicycle and pedestrian trail create safety problems with creating the conditions which can allow pedestrian and bicycle accidents to occur for the sole reason of making money.  Creating safety problems to make money is appalling and the proposed parking lots replacing the Equestrian Center must be removed.

 

April 2018 Master Site Plan Proposal is Yet Another Example of Lack of Accountability of OCFEC Directors & Executive Management

An ongoing lack of accountability exists at OCFEC which tars the Board, Executive Management. A recent example is the attempt to reduce the size of the Equestrian Center to store more shipping containers. While some have tried to portray these actions which involved expenditure of staff time and public money as a "misunderstanding", that is simply not the case. Decisions were made, plans were drafted, contractors were hired, money spent and staff time was used to perform these actions. Executive Management who were involved in these actions must be held publicly accountable.

Earlier in 2018, the Board was made aware of actions taken by the Board, Executive Management, and staff which have endangered safety, manipulated bids and financial records to achieve outcomes desired by staff, worked to evade legal settlements entered into by the Board which protect the neighborhoods around OCFEC, and have turned a blind eye to conflicts of interest, among other problems. It is not clear why the Board allows these problems to continue. No one has been held publicly accountable for these actions. 

The proposed demolition of the Equestrian Center in the April 2018 Master Site Plan proposal is yet another example of the lack of accountability. It is time for the Board to cease and desist aiding and abetting actions by Executive Management which are against the interests of the Public. New Executive Management is needed along with new Master Site Plan proposals.  The time is now for the Board to fix these problems. 

 

Rip Up the Master Site Proposals & Start Over

Over $250,000 of Public money has been wasted by the Board and Executive Management on Master Site Plan proposals which ignore the needs and desires of the Public who own the OCFEC property, are incompatible with the neighborhoods, and create safety problems.  There is money in the budget which can be used as seed money for a redo of the Master Site Plan. The $115,449 from the "PR/Manager Function" at line item 5475 in the 2018 Budget (posted above)  is the Public money used to pay for the Directors and their families and Executive Management to have catered premium buffets with grilled salmon with Florentine cream sauce; beef tenderloin sandwiches on brioche buns; bacon wrapped medallions of beef; sauteed citrus garlic buttered shrimp; swordfish; top sirloin steaks with crispy shallots; pepper crusted roasted tri tip; Portobello filet mignon with Danish bleu cheese sauce; carved rosemary and garlic stuffed prime rib; Tuscan T-bone steaks; pan roasted halibut; and tomahawk rib eye steaks among the fancy salads and desserts.  That $115,449 will make a downpayment on a new Master Site Plan. 

 

Contact Information to Follow Up on Issues

Contact the Fair Board 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

Fair Board Directors are appointed by the Governor and may be removed for cause by the Governor at any time.  (Cal. Food & Agriculture Code § 3959-3960.) Contact the Governor's Appointments Secretary Mona Pasquil Rogers at mona.pasquil@gov.ca.gov to discuss OCFEC Director performance  issues. 

Contact CEO Kathy Kramer kramer@ocfair.com

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

Contact the Costa Mesa City Council to share your concerns regarding safety and traffic issues resulting from replacing the Equestrian Center with a large parking lot and/or RV park. 

Mayor Sandra Genis sandra.genis@costamesaca.gov

Mayor Pro Tem Allan Mansoor allan.mansoor@costamesaca.gov

 

 

 


Parking Structure Shot Down in 2015 Arises Anew in Latest Fairgrounds Master Site Plan Proposal

WTF Nautical Flags (3)

The latest OC Fairgrounds (Orange County Fair and Event Center or OCFEC) Master Site Plan proposal (see page 38 and on “Phase VII - Other Projects” page 45) shows a parking structure and pedestrian bridge at the corner of Fairview Road and Arlington Drive and states that Orange Coast College (OCC) would be partnering on the project.  Representatives of OCC were contacted and multiple officials stated that they had no knowledge of the inclusion of the proposed parking structure in the Master Site Plan and OCC had not requested that the parking structure be included in the OCFEC Master Site Plan. OCFEC  Executive Management made the following statements regarding the proposed parking structure without consulting let alone obtaining an agreement from OCC: 

  • Partner with OCC 
  • Screened to lessen impact on neighbors
  • With elevators
  • Build West Tower at OCC
  • Build bridge over Fairview Dr to OCC
  • Parking garage assumed 3 stories @ +210 stalls per floor 
  • Footprint of parking garage removes -323 stalls of surface parking

CEO Kathy Kramer should recall that in 2015 a proposed parking structure on the same site was met with strong opposition by the College Park neighbors who would bear the brunt of the impacts from the project.  Current Board Directors Ashleigh Aitken, Barbara Bagneris, Nick Berardino, Doug La Belle, Gerardo Mouet, Robert Ruiz, and Stan Tkaczyk should also recall vocal neighborhood opposition to the project and suggestions that other solutions found such as building a parking garage (if one is needed) in the corner of Newport Blvd and Fair Dr below the billboards.  The parking structure proposed now in 2018 is the same unwanted parking structure proposed in 2015. If CEO Kathy Kramer and Directors Ashleigh Aitken, Barbara Bagneris, Nick Berardino, Sandra Cervantes, Doug La Belle, Gerardo Mouet, Robert Ruiz, and Stan Tkaczyk don't recall that the parking structure was unwanted in 2015 and aren't smart enough to figure out that the same parking structure is unwanted in 2018, none of them should be in charge of a public agency, allowed  to drive a car, or have sharp objects in their possession because there is something wrong with them. They may also eat paste, so lock that up.

If a Parking Structure is Needed, Put It Under the Billboards on Newport Blvd Side

If a parking structure is needed (and it is not sure if a parking structure is actually needed) the structure should be built at the corner of Newport Blvd and Fair Dr under the billboards. Building a parking structure at this location can be part of the relocation of the Main Entrance from Fair Dr to Newport Blvd. The new Main Entrance can be designed to speed up parking and move stacking of cars waiting to park from the public streets and onto OCFEC property.  This plan was previously proposed to the OCFEC and should be reconsidered:

Alt 2 Community Master Plan Executive May 17 (1) Alt 3 Community Master Plan Executive May 17 (1)

Alt 4 Community Master Plan Executive May 17 (1)

Alt 5 Community Master Plan Executive May 17 (1)

 CEO Kathy Kramer needs your help to be reminded that the parking garage at the corner of Fairview Rd and Arlington Dr is not wanted. kkramer@ocfair.com

VP of Operations Ken Karns who is in charge of the Master Site Plan  & the Fair Board Directors need to also hear from you on this matter.

Ken Karns kkarns@ocfair.com

Email Summer Angus and ask her to forward the email to the Directors sangus@ocfair.com


Unauthorized Fairgrounds Equestrian Center Size Reduction Requires Public Accountability of All Involved

Porta Pottie Question (2)

During late March, equestrians found construction workers installing permanent fence poles in concrete bases to reduce the size of the Equestrian Center. At no time was a reduction in size of the Equestrian Center approved by the Board of the OC Fairgrounds (aka Orange County Fair and Event Center or OCFEC.)  The reduction was to allow storage of more shipping containers on the property. Work was halted after the equestrians pushed back but public accountability of all involved is required. This work was planned, contracted for, paid for, and overseen by Executive Management and staff. This was not a "misunderstanding", an "accident", or anything but a deliberate planned action which wasted public money.  

Ask yourself:

  • What motivates these actions?
  • Who benefits from these actions?
  • What are the benefits received from these actions?
  • What do Board members gain by not holding Executive Management and staff involved in these actions publicly accountable?

 

Photos of the construction work: 

IMG_1176
IMG_1176
IMG_1176

The letter sent to the Board (Ashleigh Aitken, Barbara Bagneris, Nick Berardino, Sandra Cervantes, Doug La Belle, Gerardo Mouet, Newton Pham, Robert Ruiz, Stan Tkaczyk) follows: 

Staff of the 32nd District Agricultural Association (32nd DAA) are engaging in the revision of contractual lease terms involving the Equestrian Center without apparently asking for, or receiving, approval of the 32nd DAA Board or input from the Public who own the Equestrian Center. There are currently activities ongoing at the 32nd DAA to reduce the size of the Equestrian Center. It is unclear as to when, how or by whom the proposed reduction in size of the Equestrian Center was approved and the source(s) of funds for said activities. The Public who own the Equestrian Center became aware of the reduction in size of after permanent fence poles in concrete bases were installed to move the fence line from between the current boundary of the Equestrian Center to immediately behind the arenas. Work was stopped after Public intervention. At no time was the Public informed of plans to reduce the size of the Equestrian Center.

Any and all members of Executive Management who participated in the decision and actions to reduce the size of the Equestrian Center must be held publicly accountable for their actions. This current action by Executive Management against the greater interests of the Public who own the 32nd DAA property is one of a history of actions by Executive Management against the interests of the Public. For an overview of actions against the greater interests of the Public, please refer to the letter “Ongoing Pattern of Behavior by the 32nd District Agricultural Association” dated February 15, 2018, previously sent to the Board which discusses questionable actions harming the Public which started in at least 2015 and some of which may be ongoing. There is a saying that the “fish rots from the head," which applies to this action regarding the Equestrian Center. The stench of rot is overwhelming and it is time for the Board to clear out the stinking mess.

 

Footprint of the Equestrian Center is Contained in a Contract

The size and footprint of the Equestrian Center is covered by the “Equestrian Center Restated Rental Agreement Terms and Conditions” between the 32nd DAA and Equestrian Services II entered into on March 1, 2009, and modified in a Letter of Understanding dated December 26, 2012, (afterwards referred to as “Equestrian Center Lease”) (enclosed) in Exhibits B and B-2.


Exhibit B2 from Lease

Exhibit B2 from Lease

Construction Work was Conducted to Alter the Footprint of the Equestrian Center in Violation of the Terms of the Existing Contract
The proposed reduction in size of the Equestrian Center would remove the area between the riding arenas and the fence between the Equestrian Center and Parking Lot G from the area used for the Equestrian Center and use the area for storage of shipping containers. Work was stopped after permanent fence posts in concrete bases were installed prior to moving the fence line, turf removal and installation of concrete. Photos showing the work completed as of March 28, 2018, are enclosed as Exhibits A1, A2, and A3. There are reports of continuing discussions to reduce the size of the Equestrian Center to allow for increased storage space for shipping containers.

 

Altering the Footprint of the Equestrian Center Requires Board Action

Changes to the footprint of the Equestrian Center as described in the Equestrian Center Lease must be approved by the 32nd DAA Board with a contract modification. Executive Management and principals of Equestrian Services II lack authority to enact changes to the footprint of the Equestrian Center. Costs associated with capital improvements such as the work started and stopped at the Equestrian Center are approved during the 32ndDAA Board annual budget process. It is not clear if the costs associated with reducing the size of the Equestrian Center to construct a shipping container storage area were approved as part of the 2018 capital expenditures budget. These actions are contrary to the current direction of the Board regarding the Equestrian Center to make capital improvements and to increase community programming.

 

Action is Needed to Restore Trust

Trust in continuing operation of the Equestrian Center has been placed in jeopardy by these rogue actions by Executive Management. As a good faith gesture to show the Board’s continuing commitment to the Equestrian Center, the Board is requested to modify the Equestrian Center Lease to remove §18 “Impact of Annual Fair Operations and Year Round Events Program” from the current Equestrian Center Lease.

The Board is requested to investigate this matter and to hold those involved publicly accountable for their actions. A list of questions regarding the reduction of size of the Equestrian Center and shipping container storage and usage is enclosed and that information is requested to be promptly provided in an effort to restore Public trust in the 32nd DAA. (see Exhibit B)

 

Exhibit B: Please provide the requested information regarding the proposed reduction in size of the Equestrian Center to create a shipping container storage area.

  1. Please provide copies of the approvals for the proposed reduction in size of the Equestrian Center to create shipping container storage space.
  2. Please provide a copy of the budget for the proposed reduction in size of the Equestrian Center to create shipping container storage space.
  3. Please provide copies of the approvals for the budget for the proposed reduction in size of the Equestrian Center to create shipping container storage space.
  4. Please provide copies of any and all drawings and plans for the proposed reduction in size of the Equestrian Center to create shipping container storage space.
  5. Please provide copies of any and all approvals for the drawings and plans for the proposed reduction in size of the Equestrian Center to create shipping container storage space.
  6. Please provide fully executed copies of any and all contracts including any and all attachments, riders, and amendments for the proposed reduction in size of the Equestrian Center to create shipping container storage space.
  7. Please provide copies of any and all bids for the contracts including any and all attachments, riders, and amendments for the proposed reduction in size of the Equestrian Center to create shipping container storage space.
  8. Please provide copies of any and all approvals for the proposed reduction in size of the Equestrian Center to create shipping container storage space.
  9. Please provide the number of shipping containers currently stored between the Equestrian Center and Parking Lot G.
  10. Please provide current information regarding the usage and ownership of each and every shipping container currently stored between the Equestrian Center and Parking Lot G.
  11. Please provide information regarding the revenues received from the shipping containers currently stored between the Equestrian Center and Parking Lot G.
  12. Please explain the need for additional storage space for shipping containers including usage, ownership, and revenues.
  13. Please explain why the Equestrian Center is the designated space for additional shipping container storage space. 
  14. Please show alternate locations for storage of additional shipping containers.
  15. Please provide copies of the direction given to remove the fence posts installed as part of the proposed reduction in size of the Equestrian Center to create shipping container storage space.
  16. Please provide documents showing the costs of removal of the fence posts installed as part of the proposed reduction in size of the Equestrian Center to create shipping container storage space.
  17. Please provide proof that the fence posts installed as part of the proposed reduction in size of the Equestrian Center to create shipping container storage space have been removed.

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.