OC Fair Buses and Shuttles Must Stop Cutting Through Residential Neighborhoods

20190727_203805 (2)

OCTA buses and parking shuttles cutting through residential neighborhoods is not acceptable and must end.

On Saturday, July 27, 2019, OCTA OC Fair Express and parking shuttles were cutting thru Mesa del Mar. Two OCTA OC Fair Express and a parking shuttle were photographed on Junipero Dr passing a “No Parking” sign near TeWinkle Park. Traffic was backed up on Newport Blvd going into the OC Fairgrounds causing the 55 Fwy to back up to the Paularino Ave overpass. Buses and shuttles were diverting through residential neighborhoods to avoid the stopped traffic.

There are 47 weeks between the end of the 2019 OC Fair and the beginning of the 2020 OC Fair which can be used to make changes to reduce the traffic problems which crush neighborhoods during the fair.  Possible ways to reduce traffic impacts for the 2020 OC Fair include:

  • Increasing offsite parking with shuttle bus service. Shuttle bus lots can be in neighboring cities.
  • Routing OC Fair patrons to offsite parking lots with shuttle when parking lots on the Fairgrounds are filling up.
  • Ensuring the efficient use of adequate parking during periods of peak attendance.

There are a number of other possible changes which are not listed. What would you do to end buses and shuttles going to the OC Fair cutting through the residential neighborhoods?

Tell the OC Fairgrounds Executive Management and Fair Board to Stop the Buses Cutting Through Your Neighborhoods
OC Fairgrounds executive management and Fair Board claim they do not hear about problems caused by the OC Fair. You can invite Fair Board members to your neighborhood to show the problems experienced during the OC Fair. Share your problems and suggestions for fixing the problems:

Contact Fairgrounds Executive Management 
CEO Kathy Kramer kkramer@ocfair.com

VP of Operations Ken Karns kkarns@ocfair.com

 

Contact the Fair Board

Chair Robert Ruiz rruiz@ocfairboard.com

Vice Chair Sandra Cervantes scervantes@ocfairboard.com

Ashleigh Aitken aaitken@ocfairboard.com

Barbara Bagneris bbagneris@ocfairboard.com

Doug La Belle dlabelle@ocfairboard.com

Andreas Meyer ameyer@ocfairboard.com

Newton Pham npham@ocfairboard.com

Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia nrubalcavagarcia@ocfairboard.com
 

Contact OCTA Customer Relations to Lodge a Complaint About OCTA Buses Cutting Through Your Neighborhood
Call 714-636-7433 and choose from the menu (available weekdays from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm) or use the online complaint form. https://octa.net/About-OCTA/Who-We-Are/Contact-Us/Customer-Comment-Form/

Contact Your OCTA Board Member 
Costa Mesa is represented by OC Supervisor Michelle Steel.

Phone 714-834-3220

District Representative is Tim Whitacre Tim.whitacre@ocgov.com

 
The OC Fairgrounds is also known as the Orange County Fair and Event Center (OCFEC) and the 32nd District Agricultural Association (32nd DAA.)

OC Fair Board Does Not See or Acknowledge Problems with Contract to Write New Board Policy Manual

Check It Out (1)
A special Fair Board meeting was held on July 27, 2019. The only item on the agenda was a vote to approve the selection of contractor MossAdams to consult on updating and revising the Board Policy manual.

Prior to the meeting, a letter had been sent to the Board members recommending that they not approve the contract because of MossAdams stated preference for a particular policy approach known as the Carver Model, which is used in the Board's current policies and has been severely problematic, and is, in many cases, the root cause of the Board dysfunction and the out-of-control management at the Fairgrounds.

Read the MossAdams proposal Download MossAdams Proposal

Read the letter sent to the Board Download 2019-07-25_Ltr_to_Board

Unfortunately, it appears that the attempt to hire a contractor to assist is leading to more problems due to a failure of the Board to recognize important differences between the process that was described to them by Director Andreas Meyer and that for which they will be contracting.

 

Director Meyer’s Description of Policy Development Process

During the meeting, Director Meyer, who chairs the ad-hoc committee on Board Governance Policies, defended the recommendation of MossAdams by stating that, despite their stated preference for it, MossAdams will not be using the Carver Model or even directly writing the policies. Instead, the policies will be developed by the Board and the public in sections, through a series of public workshops and based on best practices and examples from other organizations and cities. Policies from each segment will be developed prior to starting on the next segment.

Unfortunately, this is not what the contract being recommended by Director Meyer actually includes.

 

Actual MossAdams Proposal

MossAdams, in their bid in response to the Fair Board's Request for Proposal proposed one round of drafting of new policies by MossAdams with input from the staff, Board, and stakeholders. The draft would be presented and revised to make the final version of the Board policies. MossAdams does not mention workshops with the owners of the property (i.e., the public), a Board centric process, or the development of the policies in a segmented, iterative fashion. MossAdams proposes a process that will only cost $45,000 (the equivalent of 150 work-hours) over 16 months, or just 9 hours of work per month. It is inconceivable that the intensive iterative process that Director Meyer has described can be performed for that amount of effort.

Per state contracting laws, the contract issued by the Fairground must reflect the bid proposal from MossAdams.

 

Failure to Recognize Discrepancy

During the meeting, it was not clear that the Board recognized the gap between the MossAdams proposal and Director Meyer's description of what would be done. Consequently, it was not clear whether Board Members were voting to approve a contract to cover what Director Meyer was describing or the contract proposed by MossAdams. When the public tried to have the Board address the gap, Chair Robert Ruiz shut down the public and discussion of the gap and approved the contract.

 

Letter Was Sent to Board Addressing the Gap Between Reality and Expectations

Following the meeting, a letter was sent to the Board addressing the gap between the MossAdams Proposal and Director Meyer's description of the process. If the Board responds to the letter, we will share the response with you.

Read the letter sent to the Board Download 2019-07-27_Ltr_to_Board

 

Contact the Fair Board

Chair Robert Ruiz rruiz@ocfairboard.com

Vice Chair Sandra Cervantes scervantes@ocfairboard.com

Ashleigh Aitken aaitken@ocfairboard.com

Barbara Bagneris bbagneris@ocfairboard.com

Doug La Belle dlabelle@ocfairboard.com

Andreas Meyer ameyer@ocfairboard.com

Newton Pham npham@ocfairboard.com

Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia nrubalcavagarcia@ocfairboard.com
 
The OC Fairgrounds is also known as the Orange County Fair and Event Center (OCFEC) and the 32nd District Agricultural Association (32nd DAA.)

How Is the 2019 OC Fair Impacting Your Neighborhood: Ask OC Fairgrounds Executive Management & Board for Help to Solve Problems

Bullhorn Meeting (1)
 
How did the first week of the 2019 OC Fair go for you and your neighbors? Some of what we have heard:
  • Traffic routing and road closures created headaches for Fairgrounds neighbors traveling to and from their homes because changes were made during the day. Neighbors found themselves stuck in the traffic they were trying to avoid.
  • Eastside Costa Mesa was parked bumper to bumper with cars left by people walking to the OC Fair. Trash was left in the neighborhood by the fairgoers.
  • Merrimac Way was used as a cut thru from Harbor Blvd.
  • Maxed out parking at the OC Fairgrounds and Orange Coast College (OCC) caused fairgoers to find other places to park. 
Are You Facing These Problems in Your Neighborhood During the 2019 OC Fair:
  • Are "No OC Fair Parking" signs and parking enforcement needed for your neighborhood? Where are the signs and enforcement needed?
  • Does your neighborhood need OC Fair Ambassadors to pick up trash? If there are OC Fair Ambassadors in your neighborhood, are more needed?
  • Do neighbors need to be given traffic routing maps including restricted turns and street closures? Should neighbors be told when traffic routing changes to plan for trips to and from their homes?
  • Should offsite parking with shuttle service be offered during the weekday evenings of the OC Fair? Hollywood Bowl and Ventura County Fair have been offering shuttle service during the weekdays for a number of years.
  • Is more weekend offsite parking with shuttle service needed?
  • Is there a better way for the OC Fair to let fairgoers know parking is maxed out other than signs on the 55 Fwy and Fairview Rd? How could fairgoers be told before getting to Fairview Rd that parking is maxed out? Where should fairgoers be routed to when parking is maxed out?
What is happening in your neighborhood and what can be done to resolve the problems? What are your ideas?
 
Ask for Help to Solve the Problems
CEO Kathy Kramer, VP of Operations Ken Karns and the OC Fair Board need to hear from you about problems experienced in the neighborhoods around the OC Fairgrounds. Please share your experiences with executive management and the OC Fair Board and include your ideas for solving the problems.
 
Executive Management
CEO Kathy Kramer kkramer@ocfair.com
 
VP of Operations Ken Karns kkarns@ocfair.com
 
Fair Board
Chair Robert Ruiz rruiz@ocfairboard.com

Vice Chair Sandra Cervantes scervantes@ocfairboard.com

Ashleigh Aitken aaitken@ocfairboard.com

Barbara Bagneris bbagneris@ocfairboard.com

Doug La Belle dlabelle@ocfairboard.com

Andreas Meyer ameyer@ocfairboard.com

Gerardo Mouet gmouet@ocfairboard.com

Newton Pham npham@ocfairboard.com

Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia nrubalcavagarcia@ocfairboard.com
 

You can copy leadership@fansocfairgrounds.com on the emails to help us track issues experienced in the neighborhoods and resolution of the issues.


Costa Mesa Neighborhoods Near OC Fairgrounds Need Neighborhood Policing & Reduced Use of OCC Parking Lots

Attention Question (1)
Neighborhoods near the OC Fairgrounds need relief from problems caused by growing OC Fair attendance and a push to have  year round daily use of the property.  Growth in year round use of the OC Fairgrounds has increased traffic, parking in the neighborhoods, and use of parking lots at Orange Coast College (OCC.)  
Problems once only experienced during the OC Fair are now year round problems for the neighbors.  

Steps can be taken to check the problems caused by increased use of the OC Fairgrounds include funding for neighborhood police services and reducing use of OCC parking lots by the OC Fairgrounds.

Fund Neighborhood Police Services in Addition to Traffic Control Services

Contracts between the Costa Mesa Police Department (CMPD) and the OC Fairgrounds provide traffic control services and do not include neighborhood police services to deal with parking, cut-through traffic, and problems caused by OC Fairgrounds patrons. Neighbors have reported difficulty in having CMPD respond to requests for service during the OC Fair. Read the contract between the OC Fairgrounds and City of Costa Mesa for police services. Download Costa Mesa Police Contracts

The OC Fairgrounds needs to fund CMPD services in the neighborhoods during the OC Fair and large year round events. CEO Kathy Kramer is pushing for increased year round use of the OC Fairgrounds, which will burden the neighborhoods even more. With annual revenues over $50 million with a profit of about $7 million (about 14%) and cash reserves are over $54 million, the OC Fairgrounds has the money to protect the neighborhoods from the problems caused by their operations and needs to step up to address issues caused by their operations.

Reduce Neighborhood Disruptions by Curtailing OC Fairgrounds Use of OCC Parking Lots

Parking lots at OCC are now being used year round for OC Fairgrounds events in addition to the five week OC Fair. OCC parking lots have becoming a defacto extension of the OC Fairgrounds parking lots. Events using the OCC parking lots during 2019 are:

  • Tet Festival on February 8, 9, 10
  • Musink on March 8, 9, 10
  • Pet Expo on April 26, 27, 28
  • OC Marathon on May 5
  • OC Night Market on May 17, 18, 19
  • Scottish Festival on May 25, 26
  • OC Night Market on June 14, 15, 16
  • OC Fair from July 12 to August 11
  • OC Night Market on August 23, 24, 25
  • Sand Sports Super Show on September 13, 14, 15

Read the contract between OCC and the OC Fairgrounds for year round use of the OCC parking lots. Download OCC Parking Contract

Use of OCC parking lots during the OC Fair and year round events disrupts the neighborhoods near the parking lots with noise from patrons coming and going carrying into the neighborhoods. Patrons leaving late at night may be intoxicated which has its own set of problems to deal with. Problems from the five week annual OC Fair are now occurring throughout the year.  CEO Kathy Kramer is pushing for growing attendance of the OC Fair and conducting events every day of the year which will grow the problems for the neighbors including increasing use of OCC parking lots.

Steps need to be taken to protect the neighbors from problems caused by ongoing use of OCC parking lots by the OC Fairgrounds:

  • Reduce use of OCC parking lots for year round event parking. Events at the OC Fairgrounds need to be parked at the OC Fairgrounds.

  • The OC Fairgrounds needs to pay for staff in OCC parking lots at the conclusion of events to move patrons out quickly and quietly.

  • Place DUI patrol in the OCC parking lots to deal with patrons who are too drunk to drive.

  • Create a way to have an immediate response to and resolution of a problem reported in the OCC parking lots. One point of contact to report, resolve and track problems at OCC parking lots caused by OC Fairgrounds events needs to be created. 

Contact the Fair Board

Chair Robert Ruiz rruiz@ocfairboard.com

Vice Chair Sandra Cervantes scervantes@ocfairboard.com

Ashleigh Aitken aaitken@ocfairboard.com

Barbara Bagneris bbagneris@ocfairboard.com

Doug La Belle dlabelle@ocfairboard.com

Andreas Meyer ameyer@ocfairboard.com

Gerardo Mouet gmouet@ocfairboard.com

Newton Pham npham@ocfairboard.com

Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia nrubalcavagarcia@ocfairboard.com

 

The OC Fairgrounds is also known as the 32nd District Agricultural Association, 32nd DAA, Orange County Fair and Event Center, and OCFEC.  

 


May 2019 OC Fairgrounds News: Construction to Worsen OC Fair Traffic and Parking, Getting Fair Share of Sales Tax Revenue & More

Check It Out (1)

In This Issue: 

  • Lack of Planning for 405 Freeway & OCC Construction Expected to Compound OC Fair Traffic & Parking Problems
  • Is a Fair Share of OC Fairgrounds Sales Tax Revenue Coming Back to Costa Mesa & OC?
  • Did the OC Fairgrounds Pass Up on a Share of $18 Million in Grant Money to Improve Emergency Readiness?
  • Over $129,000 of State Money Spent on Personally Motivated Investigations 
  • OC Fairgrounds Sent $75,000 to LGBT Opponent While Trying to Hide Behind Rainbow Flag

Lack of Planning for 405 & Freeway Construction Expected to Compound OC Fair Traffic & Parking Problems
OC Fairgrounds staff did not get ahead of problems arising from the demolition of the Fairview Rd bridge and construction at Orange Coast College. No plans are in place to have more parking lots with shuttle bus service or expanded OCTA Fair Express bus service. Expect traffic to be worse and more Fairgoers to attempt to park in Costa Mesa neighborhoods.

Is a Fair Share of OC Fairgrounds Sales Tax Revenue Coming Back to Costa Mesa & OC?
We started asking questions when we saw that sales tax revenue received by Costa Mesa from the OC Fairgrounds was flat since since 2004 despite OC Fairgrounds revenues nearly doubling since 2004. Sales tax revenue is a major source of funding for local governments. A new law enacted in 2018 makes it easier for sellers to report sales made at the OC Fairgrounds.  Preliminary numbers show an increase from the 2004 numbers and we continue to work on this issue.

Download 32nd DAA Historic Revenue Chart

Download Fairground Flat Sales Tax

 

Did the OC Fairgrounds Pass Up on a Share of $18 Million in Grant Money to Improve Emergency Readiness?
The OC Fairgrounds is a key part of the emergency readiness plans for Orange County and can be used as a shelter site for people and animals in addition to a staging site for emergency and rescue equipment. Gov. Newsom has made emergency readiness a priority and $18 million in from Proposition 68/SB 5 has been allocated to be used to improve emergency readiness infrastructure at fairgrounds. We are digging to find out if the OC Fairgrounds applied for a grant.

Over $129,000 of State Money Spent on Personally Motivated Investigations 
CEO Kathy Kramer targeted two Board Directors and the Chief Financial Officer for investigation for reasons which are unknown.  The bill has climbed to $129,270 with no end in sight.  If there are real problems to be investigated, law enforcement authorities such as the California Highway Patrol, Attorney General, State Auditor, Orange County Sheriff's Department, and other agencies should be brought in. The Fair Board has the legal authority to stop the investigations and has not stopped drain on the public coffers from the nefarious investigations. 

OC Fairgrounds Sent $75,000 to LGBT Opponent While Trying to Hide Behind Rainbow Flag
At its monthly meeting on May 23, 2019, the Fair Board voted to fly a Rainbow Flag over the Fairgrounds.  This despite the fact that the same Board has refused to order Fairgrounds CEO Kathy Kramer to cancel a sponsorship agreement she entered into with Vanguard University that has resulted in over $75,000 in public funds being transferred to the University.

Download Pride Resolution  

Download Contract 32nd DAA Vanguard

Vanguard University, which is affiliated with the Assemblies of God, takes a hard-line fundamentalist Christian position regarding homosexuality. Engaging in a even a chaste romantic same-sex relationship or publicly questioning any of the University's policies on homosexuality are grounds for expulsion.  The Orange County Fair and Event Center (a state agency) entered into a sponsorship agreement with Vanguard in 2018, but apparently did not include state required non-discrimination language in its contract. State law (Cal. Gov't. Code §11135-11139.8) prohibits the state from contracting with groups such as Vanguard University which discriminate.  

CEO Kramer has also given thousands of dollars in free OC Fair admission and concert tickets to Vanguard University in addition to allowing the school to rent OC Fairgrounds facilities on terms not available to the general public.

Did You Know?

  • OC Fairgrounds employees are not paid overtime. All hours worked are paid at the regular pay rate. Download Morales v. 22nd Dist. Agricultural Assn
  • Free admissions to the OC Fair are around 25% of the paid OC Fair admissions.
  • Fair Board Directors can buy an unlimited quantity of general admission OC Fair tickets for $1/each. Former Fair Board Directors receive a lifetime admission credential and can buy up to 30 general admission OC Fair tickets for $1/each. Download Board Director Tickets
  • Spouses and dependent children of current Fair Board Directors receive free admission credentials.
  • A Board Concierge who is a state employee arranges the dinners and concert tickets for Fair Board Directors, their friends, and business associates. Former Fair Board Directors can use the Board Concierge to book concert tickets.
  • CEO Kathy Kramer wants to raise admission prices for the 2020 OC Fair.

Contact the Fair Board
Chair Robert Ruiz rruiz@ocfairboard.com
Vice Chair Sandra Cervantes scervantes@ocfairboard.com
Ashleigh Aitken aaitken@ocfairboard.com
Barbara Bagneris bbagneris@ocfairboard.com
Doug La Belle dlabelle@ocfairboard.com
Andreas Meyer ameyer@ocfairboard.com
Gerardo Mouet gmouet@ocfairboard.com
Newton Pham npham@ocfairboard.com
Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia nrubalcavagarcia@ocfairboard.com

The OC Fairgrounds is also known as the 32nd District Agricultural Association, 32nd DAA, Orange County Fair and Event Center, and OCFEC.  


$75K Paid to Employee to Not Show Up for Work at OC Fairgrounds Requires OC Fair Board to Clean House

Toilet Paper (2)

The OC Fair Board (aka 32nd District Agricultural Association or 32nd DAA or Orange County Fair and Event Center or OCFEC Board) will meet on March 28, 2019, to consider taking action regarding the 2016 audit of the OC Fairgrounds conducted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), the parent state agency of the OC Fairgrounds. The audit found an employee paid over $75,000 in cash and benefits to not show up for work for about eight months, which was deemed to likely be an illegal contract by CalHR, the human resources department for state employees. An unredacted copy of the audit is available for download. An audit timeline prepared by CEO Kathy Kramer and her staff was presented at the February 2019 Fair Board meeting. CEO Kramer and her staff have attempted to create confusion and obstruction around the audit all while stalling Board action on the audit for nearly two years. 

Download CDFA Unredacted 2016 Audit   

Download Audit Staff-Reports-Combo1 

Understanding the facts about the the audit and why the Fair Board needs to clean house immediately can be broken down into four separate issues:
Issue 1: The propriety of the actions that resulted in the conclusion by CDFA and CalHR that the 32nd DAA entered into an illegal contract with a former employee.
Issue 2: The handling of the audit and interactions with CDFA and CalHR.
Issue 3: The disclosure of the audit to the Board and the failure to keep the Board in the loop regarding the audit.
Issue 4: Failure to accept the findings of the audit and address the issues raised.

CEO Kramer wants to confuse and conflate these four issues so that everyone will focus on Issue 1, and ignore the circumstances regarding Issues 2, 3, and 4, and what they say about her management of the OCFEC.

Issue 1: The propriety of the actions that resulted in the conclusion by CDFA and CalHR that the 32nd DAA entered into an illegal contract with a former employee.
CEO Kramer continues to try to re-litigate the propriety of her and staff's actions and characterize them as a mistake involving state employment procedures. This is a false narrative, intended to confuse the Board and others.

  • CEO Kramer made the same arguments to CalHR and they rejected them. CalHR has concluded that the contract is likely an illegal gift of funds.
  • CEO Kramer claims that prior outside counsel approved similar agreements, but has not provided such agreements to demonstrate that they were approved or comparable. Despite this, the Board accepts her unsupported claim that similar prior arrangements had been approved. Given the seriousness of these allegations, the Board should demand documentary proof of the defense.

CEO Kramer has attempted to portray paying an employee to not show up for work as a minor administrative matter, which the issue is not. This is a matter regarding misappropriation of public funds. Misappropriation of Government Funds is a felony in California (Cal. Penal Code §424), if done with knowledge of, or gross negligence regarding, the illegality of the appropriation or the lack of authority of the person making the appropriation to do so.

  • CEO Kramer was grossly negligent in that she did not take the least action to verify that this separation agreement was legal. She never sought the opinion of CalHR, or of the Attorney General's office, either one of which could have been done with a five minute phone call.
  • The separation agreement resulted in a cost to the 32nd DAA which exceeded Kramer's delegated authority, i.e., she knowingly made the misappropriation despite the fact that she knew she lacked the authority to do so.

Issue 2: The handling of the audit and interactions with CDFA and CalHR.
There is a substantial and unexplained gap in the timeline of this audit. CEO Kramer attempted to stiff-arm and delay the audit. Only when she know longer had any choice was the audit completed. This is not the behavior of a CEO who is cooperating with state officials.

The Board needs to get an explanation for gaps in the timeline and receive and review all communications or the lack thereof, between CDFA and the 32nd DAA to determine if CEO Kramer's interaction with the CDFA was in keeping with the standards that the Board would expect of the 32nd DAA's CEO.

Issue 3: The disclosure of the audit to the Board and the failure to keep the Board in the loop regarding the audit.
It is unacceptable that an audit uncovered a provisional finding of a major impropriety and this was not brought to the immediate attention of the entire Board. This calls into question the fitness of the former Board chairperson, who still sits on the Board to hold the position.

The Board needs to understand why two Board Chairs did not share this information with the entire Board membership and correct policies and guidelines to ensure that such critical information is not, in the future, hidden from the Board. 

The Board needs to find out why CEO Kramer did not disclose the final findings of the audit to the entire Board prior to her annual performance review. Willful failure to disclose such highly relevant information to the Board is suspicious and calls into question the ability of the Board to rely on the CEO to provide them with ALL information that they need to perform their oversight function.

Issue 4: Failure to accept the findings of the audit and address the issues raised.

The failure of CEO Kramer to accept the findings of CalHR and to continue to argue the propriety of the finding is indicative of someone who lacks the ability to recognize failures and take corrective action.

While all of the focus has been on the misappropriation of public funds, the audit made a fourth recommendation:
The 32nd DAA should comply with FAC 4051 by establishing written policies and procedures over its contracting processes.

Cal. Food & Agr. Code §4051 directs the 32nd DAA Board to establish and maintain written procedures for contracting. There is ample reason to recognize that current procedures are inadequate or not being applied:

  • There are multiple examples of expenditures of funds by the CEO and her staff which violate the established delegation of authority.
  • There have been identified examples of unilateral and retroactive changes to contract terms by the CEO without Board direction or knowledge.
  • The CEO has initiated and supported agreements that do not appear to be in the best interest of the state or which violate state policies or state law.
  • The amount of charges o the state authorized credit card (more than $2.3 million in 2018) raises serious questions as to whether state rules of the use of the card are being followed.

State law grants the Board authority over the affairs of the association and can make all necessary bylaws, rules, and regulations for the government of the association. (Look up Food and Agriculture Code section 3965)  It is time to clean house. 

Contact the OC Fair Board

Chair Robert Ruiz rruiz@ocfairboard.com

Vice Chair Sandra Cervantes scervantes@ocfairboard.com

Ashleigh Aitken aaitken@ocfairboard.com

Barbara Bagneris bbagneris@ocfairboard.com

Doug La Belle dlabelle@ocfairboard.com

Andreas Meyer ameyer@ocfairboard.com

Gerardo Mouet gmouet@ocfairboard.com

Newton Pham npham@ocfairboard.com

Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia nrubalcavagarcia@ocfairboard.com


Restricting Public Comments & Hiring a Private Investigator on February 2019 OC Fair Board Meeting Agenda but No Action on State Audit

Cow Question (2)

 

The agenda for the Thursday,  February 28, 2019, OC Fair Board (aka Orange County Fair and Event Center, OCFEC, 32nd District Agricultural Association) meeting has been published.  The Board meets at 9 AM at the Administration Building off Arlington Drive. If  you cannot make the meeting, please email comments to the Board Directors using the emails at the end of this post.

Agenda available here Download 19_02_February_Agenda1

Complete agenda packet available here https://ocfair.com/publicmeetings/board-of-directors-meeting-february-28-2019/

Refusing Action on State Audit Which Found Employee Paid to Not Show Up for Work 

No action can be taken by the Board regarding the 2016 state audit which found an employee paid over $70,000 to not show up for work for approximately eight months because the matter has been agendized as "Information Only" notwithstanding either the seriousness of the matter or the multiple requests by the public for action to resolve the issues which permitted this to occur. The same management are in place now as were during 2016 when the deal went down.  The Board refuses to take action to address the underlying issues which allowed these actions to occur. Download CDFA Unredacted 2016 Audit

Restricting Public Comments

New restrictions on public comment are in place for the February 2019 meeting. The new policy called a "Statement of Meeting Decorum" limits what can be said during public and agenda item comment:

[. . .] To encourage and respect all views, The OC Fair & Event Center requests that members of the public not engage in personal attacks, profanity, obscenity, hateful or abusive language, physical violence or threatening behavior. Furthermore, and to further the purposes of the Act, members of the public are requested to direct their comments directly to the Board of Directors as a whole.

It is clear that enforcement of these restrictions will violate the law. The U.S. Supreme Court specifically ruled in 1971 in Cohen v. California that governments cannot restrict speech in the interest of public decorum.  Download Cohen v. California 403 US 15

Hiring a Private Investigator

Over $58,000 was spent with private investigation firm Morley Group during 2018 without either a contract being brought forward to the Board or an explanation given of why a private investigator needed to be hired.  Morley Group is being given another no bid contract SA -051-19YR (agendized in the Standard Agreements file as "professional services" in an attempt to conceal the true nature of the contract) for $49,000 for the period from February to July 2019.  There is no need for the Morley Group contract as the OC Fairgrounds can request the Orange County Sheriff's Department, Costa Mesa Police Department, California Highway Patrol and/or other state investigative services to conduct investigations.  

Board Director Nick Berardino requested hiring an outside performance auditor and presented a report at the May 2018 Board meeting.  Download Performance Auditor Request Board Directors requested action to move ahead on a performance auditor while staff have not followed up on the request. Now is the time to bring in an outside performance auditor and request the State Auditor for assistance. If there is money for a private investigator, there is money for a performance auditor. Maybe the performance auditor can find out why the private investigator was hired and report back.

Video Recording of Meetings

Board meetings are held on Thursday mornings at 9 AM, when few people can attend.  Board intent was to look into both live streaming and recording of meetings for later playback, but the agenda says "video recording." Staff and at least one Board Director have used the specific wording of an agenda item to throttle the intentions of Board Directors on prior matters.  A push needs to be made to have live streaming of meetings and archiving of meeting records despite wishes of staff and some Board Directors to the contrary. 

Increasing Oversight of Requests for Proposals and Capital Projects

A number of surprises in requests for proposals (RFP's) and capital projects have come to light in the past few months. Several examples are:

  • Staff entered into a legally binding storm water management plan (SWMP) with the State Regional Water Quality Control Board (SRWQCB) in 2016, spent over $80,0000 on storm water consulting services, received a notice of violation for allowing runoff water from operations to enter the storm drain during 2018, and failed to let the Board know what was going on. Members of the public let the Board know about the SWMP in late 2018.
  • Nature and scope of the effort undertaken by staff to rebrand the property was unknown to several Board Directors and the public until October 2018 at which time the contract was in place and work had been started.  Staff had written the scope of work without Board or public input. The contract left out the Equestrian Center and tilted the process towards becoming an events and entertainment center.
  • Staff publicly stated that the much needed sound wall for the Action Sports Arena (ASA) was not planned to be built despite appearing in the budget for several years. Estimated costs of the sound wall are around $1 million, which is a small portion of the over $50 million in cash reserves. Staff had been leading on the Board and neighbors about building the Action Sports Arena sound wall.

Board Directors have requested to have input and oversight over how public money is spent on contracting and capital projects.  This is a good thing. 

Relocating A4 Skyhawk from Orange County Civic Center to OC Fairgrounds

Plans are being made to relocate the A4 Skyhawk currently located in the plaza at the Orange County Civic Center to the OC Fairgrounds and to place the plane near Heroes Hall Veterans Museum which would allow the plane to be used as part of the museum. Watchful eyes of the public are needed to insure that staff don't create an obstacle to this project. This is a great project. Are there other historic items which could be moved to the OC Fairgrounds?

Contact the OC Fair Board

Chair Robert Ruiz rruiz@ocfairboard.com

Vice Chair Sandra Cervantes scervantes@ocfairboard.com

Ashleigh Aitken aaitken@ocfairboard.com

Barbara Bagneris bbagneris@ocfairboard.com

Doug La Belle dlabelle@ocfairboard.com

Andreas Meyer ameyer@ocfairboard.com

Gerardo Mouet gmouet@ocfairboard.com

Newton Pham npham@ocfairboard.com

Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia nrubalcavagarcia@ocfairboard.com


State Audit of Orange County Fair and Event Center Uncovers Employee Paid to Not Show Up for Work

Toilet Paper (2)

 

This post is available as PDF. Download 2016 Audit Accountability Handout

An unredacted copy of the 2016 audit report is available. The audit was conducted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) which is the parent agency of the OC Fairgrounds (aka Orange County Fair and Event Center, OCFEC, 32nd District Agricultural Association or 32nd DAA). Download CDFA Unredacted 2016 Audit

An audit of the 32nd District Agricultural Association (32nd DAA) which operates the Orange County Fair and Event Center (OCFEC) and conducts the annual OC Fair uncovered that the 32nd DAA paid a former employee over $74,000 in wages and benefits after she stopped working for the 32nd DAA in 2016. The audit report concluded that the 32nd DAA “overpaid the employee for work that was not performed and therefore may be considered a gift of public funds”, which is prohibited by the California Constitution. Auditors recommended that while attempts should be made to recoup the funds paid, it was unlikely that the funds could be recovered from the former employee. The 32nd DAA contends that the payments were made to incentivize an employee who allegedly created a hostile work environment to leave the 32ndDAA, although no explanation has been offered as to why the employee was so incentivized and not simply terminated for creating such an environment

CEO Kathy Kramer was aware of the issues raised in the audit which included a failure to update contracting procedures to remain in compliance with statute in May 2018. The May 2018 32nd DAA Board of Directors (Board) meeting agenda included enacting new policies and procedures regarding the issues regarding contracting procedures but made no mention of payment of the over $74,000 to a no-show employee.

The public remained unaware of the audit until late 2018 when CEO Kramer placed Vice President of Finance Adam Carleton on administrative leave. Mr. Carleton is the fifth VP of Finance under CEO Kramer since her arrival at the OC Fairgrounds four years ago. Mr. Carleton alleges he was placed on administrative leave as part of the effort to conceal the audit findings of payment to an employee to not show up for work. Mr. Carleton made the public aware of the existence and findings of the audit. CEO Kramer has not offered any other reason for placing Mr. Carleton on leave, but simply denies it was for this reason. No actions have been taken relating to other senior members of the executive management team including Vice President of Operations Ken Karns and Vice President of Business Development Michele Richards despite serious problems at the Fairgrounds including critical health and safety violations going uncorrected for more than a year and the booking of controversial events which have led to problems up to, and including, a riot at the Fairgrounds.

There is a runaway administration which is trying to operate without oversight and transparency which has placed the safety of the public and financial health of the 32nd DAA at risk. Among these are:

  • Reports from the State Fire Marshal in 2016 and 2018 contained numerous violations which required correction, with many of the issues identified in the 2016 report remaining uncorrected in the 2018 report.
  • A culinary program for high school students was conducted in a kitchen where the fire suppression system was rendered effectively non-functional.
  • CEO Kramer and VP Karns signed off on over $250,000 invoices for the master site plan without receiving the deliverable items.
  • The Fairground was cited for violations of storm water discharge regulations by authorities after an inspection triggered by their washing of animal waste into the storm water system.

CEO Kramer and the management of the Orange County Fairground attempts to operate the facility with a lack of transparency that verges on outright opacity.

  • The Fairgrounds management regularly fails to provide documents requested under the California Public Records Act for months after the requests (rather than the 10 days found in the law) and makes no effort to work with requesters to streamline this process, as required by law.
  • The Fairgrounds management worked with contractors to develop a master site plan which ignored public input and proposed demolition of the Equestrian Center to create an RV park despite the Board and public expressing the need to keep the Equestrian Center, but which captured most of the wish list given to the contractors by Fairground VP Karns prior to gathering input from the public or the Board.
  • Management made a further attempt to reduce the size of the Equestrian Center to provide more space for shipping containers by misleading the Board that a parking lot adjacent to the Equestrian Center would be used for storage and did not state the Equestrian Center was targeted to become a storage area.
  • Management spent nearly $100,000 with a contractor to generate a Storm WaterManagement Plan that legally committed the Fairgrounds to certain actions without ever raising the contracts or the plans to the attention of the 32nd DAA Board that was appointed by the Governor to oversee the Fairgrounds.
  • Recently, management attempted to use state funds to pay for travel by CEO Kramer, VP Karns and VP Richards to Texas despite the ban on travel to Texas using state money due to discrimination by Texas against the LGBTQ community.

The 32nd DAA Board fails to effectively oversee the Fairgrounds, despite being charged with the authority to “manage the affairs of the association” (Food and Agriculture Code §3965(b)). The senior management of the OC Fairgrounds has convinced a number of members of the Board that they are “merely volunteers,” have only an advisory role and should not weigh in on the actions of Fairgrounds Management. These “captured” Board members facilitate the actions of Fairgrounds management, stymie the efforts of other Board Members to do their appointed job, and refuse to meet with members of the public regarding management of the 32nd DAA. Board members are well rewarded by Fairgrounds management with free catered gourmet dinners, free tickets for front row seats to headliner concerts, and free trips to meet with trade association lobbyists in addition to staff providing assistance with furthering the social lives of Board members using state funds.

About the 32nd DAA

The 32nd District Agricultural Association (32nd DAA) was formed after WW II by the state and made responsible for conducting the Orange County Fair which had been held since 1890 by private organizations. A portion of the former Santa Ana Army Air Base was purchased by the state to be utilized by the 32nd DAA. The approximately 150 acre property is currently owned and operated by the state and staffed by civil service employees and state contractors. Annual revenues of the 32nd DAA are over $48 million with operating expenses of about $39 million and cash reserves of about $50 million. The 32nd DAA uses the names “Orange County Fair and Event Center” and “OCFEC” to conduct business. A nine member Board of Directors appointed by the governor oversees the management of the property. California Department of Food and Agriculture Fairs and Expositions Branch under the Division of Marketing Services is the parent agency of the 32nd DAA.

About the Equestrian Center

The Equestrian Center at the Orange County Fair and Event Center is owned by the state and operated by a private company and features eight barns with stalls and offices and five riding arenas. Programs include therapeutic riding, Pony Club to children to learn horsemanship, OC Vaulting featuring gymnastics performed on horses, in addition to riding lessons for jumping, hunting, eventing, and English riding, among other styles. The Equestrian Center is open to the public.

About Friends and Neighbors of the Orange County Fairgrounds

Friends and Neighbors of the Orange County Fairgrounds (FANOCF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation which was formed to foster and support the operation of the Orange County Fairgrounds so as to benefit the interests of the neighboring residents and the public. FANOCF strives “For a Fair and Fairgrounds that is for, and of, Orange County”. FANOCF advocates for uses of the OCFEC property which prioritizes the needs of Orange County residents for educational, agricultural, and community based programming.

Contact the OC Fair Board

Chair Robert Ruiz rruiz@ocfairboard.com

Vice Chair Sandra Cervantes scervantes@ocfairboard.com

Ashleigh Aitken aaitken@ocfairboard.com

Barbara Bagneris bbagneris@ocfairboard.com

Doug La Belle dlabelle@ocfairboard.com

Andreas Meyer ameyer@ocfairboard.com

Gerardo Mouet gmouet@ocfairboard.com

Newton Pham npham@ocfairboard.com

Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia nrubalcavagarcia@ocfairboard.com

 


Help Us Trace $46K in Payments for OC Fairgrounds Master Site Plan Meetings

What They Arent Telling You (1)

Help us trace payments for meetings held regarding the OC Fairgrounds (aka Orange County Fair and Event Center or OCFEC)  Master Site Plan from October 2017 to  April 2018.  A total of $46,000 was spent on meetings outside of the September 2017 and April 2018 public meeting and which was not included in the original contract. Fairgrounds staff hasn't been able to explain what the $46,000 was spent on.

The companies and staff working on the project were:

C. H. Johnson Consulting: Charles Johnson

SWA: Elizabeth Shreeve

HPI Architecture: Lawrence (Larry) Frapwell, Megan Gaunce

The meetings and charges we need help with are:

Date     Payment
Additional Meetings Prior to October 2017     $6,010
October 2017  $3,673
November 2017 $4,070
December 2017 $2,628
January 2018 $10,877
February 2018 $3,600
March 2018 $5,475
April 2018 $13,668
Credit for Attending April 26, 2018 Board Meeting ($4,000)

 

If you met with the consultants between October 2017 and April 2018 outside of one of the public meetings described below, drop us a line at leadership@fansocfairgrounds.com because we want to learn more about how public money was spent. 

When Public Meetings Were Held

Public meetings were held at the September 2017 and the April 2018 Board meetings on Thursday mornings. A public workshop was held in The Hangar during June 2017.  Small group meetings for vendors, concessionaires, tenants, government entities, and community groups were held during the spring of 2017.


Rebranding the OC Fairgrounds: Public Input Needed Jan. 29 & 30, 2019

Bullhorn Meeting (1)

Does the OC Fairgrounds (aka OC Fair and Event Center or OCFEC) need a new image and brand or is the current image and brand working fine?  Keeping the current image and branding is an option.

You can give your input on:

  • Tuesday January 29, 2019 from 2-3 PM 
  • Wednesday January 30, 2019 from 6-7 PM

Meetings will be held in the Administration Building located off Arlington Drive. The property address is 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Info from OCFEC about this project is available. 

What's Missing from the Rebranding Effort

A number of important uses of the property are missing from the branding questions such as the Equestrian Center  along with community, educational, and agricultural use. There are no questions about how the property fits into the local community. Please let the branding consultants know these uses are important to you. 

Expected Questions for the Rebranding Workshops

The Board was asked questions about rebranding during the December 2018 Board meeting and expect similar questions to be asked during the workshops. Those questions were:

What makes the OC Fair & Event Center great?

How have you seen the OC Fair & Event Center change in the past five years?

What's your vision of the organization in the next five years?

What do you think are the biggest challenges in attracting new events here to the property?

When you think about events that you go to outside of those that are here at the OC Fairgrounds, what are some of the interesting changes that you see happening at other events that you frequent or that you have attended.

Who would you say the competitors are?

To what extent do you believe we've built goodwill and equity into some of the particular venues here on the site?

Up here on the screen, we just put a few logos together here and we're calling this the OC Tourism Slide. Basically, things that you can experience here in Orange County or near Orange County. And we would just like to hear youth thoughts if there are any particular logos that you think are very effective or that speak to you -- resonate with you?

OCTourismLogos (1)

 

These are fairground brands. Do any of these stand out to you as being particularly effective?

Fairgrounds Logos (1)

 

These are more venue logos where you might go to hear a concert or have an experience. So we'd just love to hear your thoughts about which of these you feel are interesting or effective.

Venue Logos (1)

 

Contact Information

You can share your thoughts with staff and the Board regarding the rebranding effort.

Contact VP of Business Development Who is Managing the Rebranding Work

Michele Richards mrichards@ocfair.com

Contact the Fair Board 

Chair Robert Ruiz rruiz@ocfairboard.com

Vice Chair Sandra Cervantes scervantes@ocfairboard.com

Ashleigh Aitken aaitken@ocfairboard.com

Barbara Bagneris bbagneris@ocfairboard.com

Doug La Belle dlabelle@ocfairboard.com

Andreas Meyer ameyer@ocfairboard.com

Gerardo Mouet gmouet@ocfairboard.com

Newton Pham npham@ocfairboard.com

Natalie Rubalcava-Garcia nrubalcava-garcia@ocfairboard.com