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Venezia: OC Fairgrounds Saga Heads Back To Court

BARBARA VENEZIA
OC Register

With so much already burning up in Costa Mesa politics, it seems only fitting the OC Fairgrounds sale saga would start to sizzle again this week.

The case heads back to court Friday for a hearing before the Fourth District Court of Appeal. The court will decide whether to allow the sale, or to delay it for further proceedings.

I talked with Jeff Teller, president of Tel-Phil Enterprises, as he drove to Sacramento to testify at a Wednesday hearing in support of Assemblyman Jose Solorio’s Bill AB35.

According to Solorio’s website, “This bill would authorize the Board of Directors of the Orange County Fair… to enter into a revenue sharing plan with the state regarding property of the Orange County Fairgrounds… if the plan would generate an amount in excess of $100,000,000.”

Basically, Solorio wants to block the sale of this state asset and instead turn it into a revenue-sharing proposition. Sounds like a win-win situation for all. But he doesn’t explain how they are going to generate the revenue.

Not so fast! There’s one big loser in this scenario: the Facilities Management West folks, the winning bidders of the fairgrounds under the Schwarzenegger regime. They’re not happy, and they’re making it quite clear.

A letter of protest against AB 35, penned by head honcho Guy Lemmon, is posted on the FMW website (which looks weirdly like the official OC Fairgrounds site).

Right out of the blocks it states: “The bill fails to protect the integrity of the current Orange County Fairgrounds, is not in the public interest, and also conflicts directly with the legislation that enabled the sale.”

Really? Seems like the only public interest not being served here is that of FMW.

The letter rehashes the same old arguments as to why their sale should go through but doesn’t mention the fact that, although Schwarzenegger did accept their bid, that the sale never opened escrow and no money changed hands. (The sale was delayed after a judge approved a restraining order.)

And Lemmon’s not a fan of OC Fair Board Chairman David Ellis either.

“… the background section describes the extraordinary efforts made by this Fair Board and Chairman Ellis … in order to purchase OCF for personal gain,” Lemmon wrote about Solorio’s bill. “Not only has this been an embarrassment for other members of the Fair Board, it has roiled the community, and subjected the board to harsh and relentless criticism.”

To me, no raving letter about the fairground’s sale would be complete without a proper Ellis dress-down, but in this case, I found it really didn’t add anything to FMW’s case. In fact, it makes Lemmon just sound sour – no pun intended.

In talking with Jeff Teller this week, he seemed more upbeat than I’ve heard him in a long time. I asked how business was at the OC Marketplace. Jeff said, “In spite of the lack of cooperation from Steve Beazley and the OC Fair Board, we continue to thrive and renew.”

So is Jeff expecting the cavalry to ride in and save the day in the form of Governor Jerry Brown? Probably not this week.

“I know the governor’s aware of what’s happening and how important this is to all of us, but he’s focused on the budget right now and we respect that. I’m confident he’ll get around to this issue,” Jeff said.

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