Fairgrounds Staff

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 [email protected]

Vice Chair Andreas Meyer [email protected]

Director Ashleigh Aitken [email protected]

Director Barbara Bagneris [email protected]

Director Doug LaBelle [email protected]

Director Newton Pham [email protected]

Director Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia   [email protected]

Director Robert Ruiz   [email protected]


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 [email protected]

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 [email protected]

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.


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 [email protected]
VP of Operations Ken Karns [email protected]
Fair Board
Chair Robert Ruiz [email protected]

Vice Chair Sandra Cervantes [email protected]

Ashleigh Aitken [email protected]

Barbara Bagneris [email protected]

Doug La Belle [email protected]

Andreas Meyer [email protected]

Gerardo Mouet [email protected]

Newton Pham [email protected]

Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia [email protected]

You can copy [email protected] on the emails to help us track issues experienced in the neighborhoods and resolution of the issues.

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 [email protected]
Vice Chair Sandra Cervantes [email protected]
Ashleigh Aitken [email protected]
Barbara Bagneris [email protected]
Doug La Belle [email protected]
Andreas Meyer [email protected]
Gerardo Mouet [email protected]
Newton Pham [email protected]
Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia [email protected]

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 [email protected]

Vice Chair Sandra Cervantes [email protected]

Ashleigh Aitken [email protected]

Barbara Bagneris [email protected]

Doug La Belle [email protected]

Andreas Meyer [email protected]

Gerardo Mouet [email protected]

Newton Pham [email protected]

Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia [email protected]

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 [email protected]

Vice Chair Sandra Cervantes [email protected]

Ashleigh Aitken [email protected]

Barbara Bagneris [email protected]

Doug La Belle [email protected]

Andreas Meyer [email protected]

Gerardo Mouet [email protected]

Newton Pham [email protected]

Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia [email protected]

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 [email protected]

Vice Chair Sandra Cervantes [email protected]

Ashleigh Aitken [email protected]

Barbara Bagneris [email protected]

Doug La Belle [email protected]

Andreas Meyer [email protected]

Gerardo Mouet [email protected]

Newton Pham [email protected]

Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia [email protected]


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


Use the September 2018 meeting information.


Contact Information to Follow Up on Issues

Contact the Fair Board 

Chair Barbara Bagneris [email protected]
Vice Chair Robert Ruiz [email protected]
Newton Pham [email protected]
Sandra Cervantes [email protected]
Doug La Belle [email protected]
Gerardo Mouet [email protected]
Ashleigh Aitken [email protected]

Contact CEO Kathy Kramer [email protected]

Contact VP of Operations Ken Karns  [email protected]

Contact VP of Business Development Michele Richards [email protected]


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


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 [email protected]
Vice Chair Robert Ruiz [email protected]
Newton Pham [email protected]
Sandra Cervantes [email protected]
Stan Tkaczyk [email protected]
Doug La Belle [email protected]
Gerardo Mouet [email protected]
Ashleigh Aitken [email protected]
Nick Berardino [email protected]

Contact CEO Kathy Kramer [email protected]

Contact VP of Operations Ken Karns  [email protected]

Contact the Governor's Appointments Secretary Mona Pasquil Rogers at [email protected] 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 [email protected]

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

F&E Branch Chief John Quiroz 916-900-5025 [email protected]




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.