Orange County Fair Preservation Society

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Conflict of interest is OC Fair Theme

October 2009
« Sep   Nov »


Of all the fairgrounds around the state that were proposed to be sold by the governor, the OC Fairgrounds is the only one actually on the auction block. While other cities lobbied Sacramento against selling their fairgrounds, OC politicos actually lobbied for the sale. Be careful what you wish for.

When I first wrote about the sale in August, former state Sen. Dick Ackerman was helping OC Fair Board members create a nonprofit organization making a bid for the fairgrounds. He told me “the governor’s office will be looking at all proposals not just based on the highest bidder, but appropriate usage as well.” Well, that’s not quite how it worked out.

The state’s plan now is that once all RFPs (request for proposals) are in, the agency in charge will select the cream of the crop and then auction the fairgrounds off to the highest bidder. The dilemma for buyers, if you have to come up with additional money at auction time, what initial sale price do you propose? If the dollars in the RFP are too low, you don’t get into the auction, and if you blow your budget initially, you have no money at auction time.

Now that the nonprofit OC Fair & Event Center Foundation has been formed, I asked Dick if he was going to serve on its board of directors. With his stellar reputation and knowledge of Sacramento politics, he’s an obvious asset. He told me he couldn’t because of conflict of interest.

Hmm. So if Dick has a conflict of interest, how could state-appointed Fair Board members start a nonprofit and make a bid for the fairgrounds? Isn’t this just a shell game? He explained that because they have no direct influence on the outcome of the sale, there was no conflict of interest.

But wait a minute, didn’t these folks get appointed because of their political influence in Sacramento? It’s no secret Fair Board appointments are among the most coveted in the state. As I have written before, you can’t even find an application on the OC Fair website.

The newly formed foundation will also include two appointees by the Board of Supervisors and two by CM. No elected officials. Residents should be asking why not. I also asked Jeff Teller if he’d been approached to be on the new nonprofit board since he is the president of Phil Tel, owners of the OC Marketplace and one of the largest revenue generators. He hasn’t. Apparently that’s a conflict of interest too. He has six years left on his current contract, which becomes null and void in the event of a sale and a 90-day severability clause. He could be going bye-bye.

According to “A conflict of interest occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in the other.”

So who in this game doesn’t have a conflict of interest? You could argue that everyone in this drama fits this bill. Looks like the perfect storm for lawsuits is brewing and I predict we’ll see more than one real soon.


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