By Matt Coker
Some anonymous Orange County Fair employees have created a website that channels their displeasure with the proposed sale of the state-owned fairgrounds in Costa Mesa.
www.OCUnfair.com takes particular aim at: Steve Beazley, the Orange County Fair president and CEO; David Ellis, a Newport Coast resident who serves on the governor-appointed Orange County Fair Board of Directors; and Richard “Dick” Ackerman, the former state senator and longtime Fullerton-area public officeholder who OCUnfair.com accuses of helping Beazley and Ellis to engineer an ill-advised land sale.
Indeed, the overriding theme of OCUnfair.com is that Beazley and Ellis are working behind the scenes on a deal that helps two people the most: Beazley and Ellis.
The site’s creators explain they can’t use their names for fear of getting fired. They point to the firing of 30-year law enforcement officer and longtime fair employee Bob Mosley, who had apparently gone public with his opposition to the proposed sale. OCUnfair.com claims Beazley is on record saying, “If you don’t get on board our train, you will be left at the station just like Bob Mosley.”
During the height (or depth) of the state budget negotiations, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed selling various state-owned properties, including fairgrounds, to raise some much-needed capital. But the only deal that seems to have any legs is the one involving the Costa Mesa fairgrounds, with a price tag of $25 million to $30 million being bandied about in the media. That would barely put a dent in the interest to the state debt.
>But the first word of the governor’s plan raised hackles not because of the puny difference the sale would make, but because of who would be most impacted. While one side of the fairgrounds runs parallel to Newport Boulevard and the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway, the other sides face churches, city facilities and a whole lot of residences. Traffic and noise have always been issues, especially that generated during the fair and the Pacific Amphitheatre outdoor concert season.
Fears began running rampant of a sweetheart deal being cut to turn the valuable real estate into a loud, glitzy and packed entertainment district without the usual local planning and environmental review such a use would normally demand. There were even rumors that the owner of L.A. Live! near the Staples Center was ready to ink a deal for an OC Live!
Those involved in the negotiations have since assured the public that the idea is the fairgrounds will remain fairgrounds, with a nonprofit foundation–possibly culled from the current fair board–in charge of keeping it that way in perpetuity. Such talk apparently has not satisfied the forces behind OCUnfair.com.
For instance, a new post today, “Beazley Tries to Muzzle Employees,” alleges the fair chief is trying to get his staff to sign loyalty oaths, under threat of termination, promising they won’t disclose the Beazley/Ellis takeover scheme to the public.
Last week’s “Board Must Get Off the Sidelines” urges directors to stop a small faction “conspiring with a power-mad CEO to lead the inattentive board majority down a path of destruction.”
The Sept. 14 post “Don’t Ignore the Man Behind the Curtain!” focuses on Ellis’ alleged influence peddling past, which ties him into a San Bernardino County supervisor, disgraced electronic voting company Diebold, Newport Beach City Council campaigns and his firm’s $458,000 “public education” contract for the since-defeated El Toro International Airport.
“Ellis has moved up now to the state level and in partnership with Steve Beazley, is quietly perpetrating the biggest land heist in Orange County history,” states the post. “What is stunning is that former State Senator Dick Ackerman seems to be helping Ellis and Beazley pull this off. Ackerman and his law firm are assisting with the legal maneuvering and his firm stands to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process.”
Readers are urged to post comments, share their knowledge as to what’s going on behind the scenes and communicate to the Orange County media about “this cancerous disease created by Beazley and Ellis.”
If any of this screams “labor union tactics,” yes, some unionized Orange County Fair employees have screamed loudest against the sale of the fairgrounds, which could possibly lead to the invalidation of union contracts negotiated with the state.
But anyone interested is also encouraged by OCUnfair.com to attend fair board meetings, to see for themselves what is happening and to voice anything they object to to directors.
In fact, the board’s next meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday in the administrative building at 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa.
How do I know? OCUnfair.com says so.