By MIKE REICHER / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
COSTA MESA A committee formed to review the sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds, which never happened, found that some consulting contracts were hidden from public scrutiny, including one that went to former state Senator Dick Ackerman.
Some fair directors called for a forensic audit at a meeting Thursday after the board reviewed the committee’s final report.
The publicly owned grounds were the subject of intense fighting when former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration sought to sell real estate to deal with the state fiscal crisis. A grass-roots group, with the help of other elected officials, successfully defeated the privatization. But questions have always lingered about who was behind the attempted sale, and if some fair board members used public funds in their attempt to buy the property.
“Money was laundered,” said board member Nick Berardino, the general manager of the Orange County Employees Association, during the meeting. “It was hidden. It was laundered. It was intentionally done.”
Ackerman’s former law firm, Nossaman LLP, received contracts that totaled about $100,000, according to Fair Sale Review Committee member Theresa Sears. About half of that went to an appraiser, and Ackerman acted as a liaison with local and state public officials, the report says.