Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Fairground Quagmire

I sat here late last night, knowing I needed to write about the Fairgrounds drama following the Fair Board meeting yesterday and the hasty Sacramento trip by City Manager Allan Roeder and Councilwoman Katrina Foley at the same time. I knew I owed you some kind of observation based on all the turmoil that is swirling around this issue. But, every time I began to type I found myself getting angry, frustrated and plain old depressed. So, I thought I'd get a good night's sleep and start today. Didn't work - I'm still angry, frustrated and depressed!

I was unable to attend the Fair Board meeting yesterday due to a prior commitment, but I'm told by reliable sources, and local media coverage, that the Board voted nearly unanimously to forward the profit sharing proposal to Sacramento for it's consideration. Member David Padilla voted no and, based on reports from the front, was quite angry with the whole situation. Rumors have it that he and other Board members had not even seen the document before being asked to ratify it.

you will recall from my previous entry, Chair Kristina Dodge penned a letter to the Governor dated 7/31/10 that was a transmittal document for the proposal. My conversation with Steve Beazley, CEO of the Fairgrounds, on Saturday led me to believe that the proposal was already in Governor Scharzenegger's hands on that date - more than 48 hours BEFORE the Board had even seen it! Some have speculated that this was a clear violation of the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Law.

This kind of stealth governance has marked the Fair Board's role in the whole process for more than a year. From the time they unleashed Dick Ackerman to gin up support in Sacramento for a bill to sell the Fairgrounds last year right on through the events yesterday, they have been less than forthcoming. "Transparency" is a word with which they have no familiarity, it seems.

Beazley promised to give me a call yesterday following the meeting so he could answer any questions I might have. Instead, he bailed out right after the meeting and has still not returned my repeated messages to him.

In the meantime, Roeder and Foley were apparently summoned to Sacramento with short notice and no word is yet forthcoming from either of them about the reason and any results of the trip. A Press Release is promised today sometime. I'll report on that when I see it.

One source, who refused attribution, but is in a position to know, tells me that Assemblyman Jose Solorio is still supporting the current deal, is satisfied that Facilities Management West can perform and will have a draft of his bill available for circulation soon. He apparently is concerned that the budget gridlock may delay passage of this bill, to maybe as late as November! Every day that passes now without a signed and sealed deal delays lining up contracts for events at the Fairgrounds next year. It's my understanding that, based on previous direction from the Department of General Services, NO contracts may be authorized past the end of October until a deal is done.

It will come as no surprise that many of the interested parties and stakeholders in the Fairgrounds have been melting the wires with emails, peppering their Facebook walls with comments and writing commentaries in local media and on blogs.

For example, yesterday Vern Nelson over at the Orange Juice Blog, wrote the third of his essays on the current Fairgrounds deal between the City of Costa Mesa and Facilities Management West. Yesterday's presentation is a scathing indictment of the process and the deal. You can read it HERE. Give yourself plenty of time.

Former Daily Pilot columnist and current Orange County Register columnist Barbara Venezia has written two highly critical essays recently, which you can read HERE and HERE. The last one, dated yesterday, has the provocative title, "OC Fair Board like killer in a bad horror flick". Her take on this seems to be pretty darn valid.

Other activists have flooded the social media with links to, for example, the text of the American Fairs and Festivals proposal for a partnership with the City of Costa Mesa for the purchase and operation of the Fairgrounds that, for an unexplained and curious reason, was abruptly rejected and Facilities Management West was invited to the table as a last-minute replacement. You can read that long pdf. file HERE. Some have speculated that nearly $8,000 in contributions to Mayor Allan Mansoor's Assembly campaign by individuals and organizations affiliated with Facilities Management West may have had something to do with that, but I seriously doubt it. Mansoor was not part of the negotiating team and, even if he had been, although he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, he's not that stupid. However, many inquiring minds want to know what happened with that deal, but nobody's talking. Supposedly, all those contributions have been returned.

This whole Fairgrounds Sale deal has been a disaster from the very beginning, with the intrigue surrounding the Fair Board's creation of a foundation to purchase the property, Dick Ackerman's role in this whole thing, the haste with which the State has required the City of Costa Mesa to cobble together an offer that they MIGHT accept and the various factions attempting to "blow up" the deal - including threats by Costa Mesa Planning Commission Chairman and candidate for City Council, Jim Righeimer, to do just that if not given a seat at the table.

The City of Costa Mesa is not without fault in this process. For an organization that has historically conducted the business of the city with candor and openness, this has been an unexpected and unpleasant aberration. I suspect the pace with which they had to put together a deal due to the unrealistic and unreasonable deadlines imposed by The State has caused our elected leaders and the staff to give public awareness short shrift. I imagine some of them must have felt like they were in an old Keystone Kops movie at times. Yeah, I know I'm dating myself - so be it.

Tonight there will be a City Council meeting, but there is no agenda item in either the open or closed session that deal with the Fairgrounds. We can only hope that Foley and/or Roeder will take a few minutes to let the public know what that dash to Sacramento was all about, and give us an update on the status of the Fairgrounds deal.

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Anonymous Bootsie said...

The constant lack of transparency from the city is a prelude to what we will be getting if their purchase/sublease with FMW goes through.

On the other hand, the fair board presented it's proposal to the board members, and the public, on Saturday via their website. I had no trouble finding it. It was posted 2 days before the board meeting. Apparently David Padilla can't read!

When it comes to transparency, the fair board wins, hands down!

8/03/2010 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

So, Bootsie, you're sure you're not related to a Board member? And, I doubt very much that the Board expects the members to have to search out the staff reports online. I suspect their protocol is to provide them to each one in person. The agenda was out in plenty of time and the staff report made it depending on how you define "working days".... Beazley says that during the Fair EVERY day is a work day, yet he wasn't there today! They're playing fast and loose with the rules. The only people satisfied with their method of operation will be the board members themselves or their families and confidants.

8/03/2010 02:16:00 PM  
Anonymous ackess said...

Hey Geoff, just a point of clarification: what is the requirement for posting a staff report. I know an agenda has to be posted 10 days before the meeting but is there a rule about reports?

But, if the report was online two days before the meeting, as Bootsie says, do you really think the Board didn't have the report also? I would imagine the Board would have it before the public, even if that doesn't make good copy.

8/03/2010 02:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Bootsie said...

Don't be so paranoid ..... I'm not related to a board member.

I was just cruising through the fair website to see what was going on this next week. While there I took a peek at everything OCFEC had to offer.

That's something all fair board members should be doing if they are providing the oversight expected by the public.

Apparently most of them did so.

8/03/2010 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

ackess, the Bagley-Keene Act (there's a link to it on my home page) says an agenda is required to be posted 10 days prior to the meeting... not sure they made that cut off. It's unclear about staff reports added at a later date but before the meeting. It only says the agenda information must be sufficient to make discussion possible. Take a look and tell me what you think. Dave Padilla apparently said he had not seen the item before the meeting... don't know who is at fault.

Bootsie, not paranoid, just looking for honesty - too much to expect? I don't really care if you're a board member, related to one or not except it puts your comments into perspective. I agree that all the Fair Board members should be intimately familiar with the issues to come before them - that really is the nut of this entire thing, isn't it? When some of the members - apparently unknown to others - decided to form a foundation to buy the Fairgrounds that should have given any of us a strong hint about just who was messing with whom in the process. Don't you think that was bad form on the part of those scheming to form the foundation? If you were one of those Board members on the outside looking in on that little transaction, how would you feel? Would you feel betrayed? Would you be disappointed? Would you feel they were violating their fiduciary responsibility?

8/03/2010 03:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Bootsie said...

Geoff, you seem to overlook the fact that the city of Costa Mesa ignores the Bagley-Keene Act on a regular basis.

They are constantly adding to their agendas, and their MOU and Purchase Contract with FMW was presented to the city council only mere hours before they were forced to vote on it.

Guess that's OK though. Huh? I certainly hope your answer to that question is no.

Face it, with regard to the current fairgrounds dilemma, time is of the essence. Haggling over minutia is just plain DUMB!

8/03/2010 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Bootsie, the City is not covered by the Bagley-Keene Act. It's covered by the Brown Act, a link to which is on my home page for your reading pleasure.

I agree, though, items added to the agenda of meetings as the council takes the dais certainly meets neither the spirit or word of the law. In the case of the Fairgrounds issue, haste is, indeed, making waste. We have no argument there...

8/03/2010 03:31:00 PM  
Anonymous ackess said...

So, despite you intimating wrongdoing regarding posting of the staff report, the law doesn't specify when staff reports need to be posted?

Also, I find it odd that a report was available to the public and yet a board member claims to not have seen it (while all other board members had no complaint). Maybe Padilla should accept fault for not being prepared for the meeting instead of blaming others.

8/03/2010 03:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Vern said...

Hi Geoff.

I guess I'm one who frequently mentions the contributions Allan got ($6000 by the way; the other $2000 were unrelated from Segerstrom.) But I don't think it was an essential factor in making this deal inevitable. I just think it reflects badly on Allan, who is, you may remember, running for office. Of course the deal would have happened with or without him.

But it's notable that he was the only councilmember who was with FMW from the very beginning, the only one to vote against AFF on May 10, citing "concerns" with AFF that he still hasn't clarified. And also notable that he had previously asked AFF's founder Jeff Teller for a contribution and Jeff respectfully refused in order to avoid conflicts of interest.

Thanks for the link. Did you like how I made you a character in my latest epic?

8/03/2010 04:08:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

I guess one way to resolve this question would be to get it straight from the horses's mouth - or whatever. However, nobody's home at the Fairgrounds today except the telephone operator, who tells you nobody's home. I've got a call in to the fellow who handles that and expect a call from him tomorrow. Of course, I've been expecting a call from Steve Beazley since yesterday, so I'm not holding my breath.

In the meantime, please do continue to ask antagonizing questions - that's why we're here.

8/03/2010 04:12:00 PM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Ah, Chez Vern.. good to hear from you. Actually, there were more FMW contributions not mentioned, but they didn't total the $2,000 you mentioned. Regardless, it was bad form on his part to accept the money in the first place. As you scroll through the list of his contributors some very interesting multiple-donations jump off the page at you which may raise some future questions.

Yes, the question of the ouster of AFF remains a mystery. And, yes, I enjoyed being a minor player in your most recent drama.. :-) I do hope your blood pressure has subsided a little by now. :-)

8/03/2010 04:18:00 PM  

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