Deal or No Deal: OC Fairgrounds Edition

"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."

Al Pacino's famous Godfather III line comes to mind when observing the Marx Brothersesque process to sell the state-owned Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa to someone . . . anyone.

The only difference is those who seemed to be out are the ones pulling themselves back in.

The latest is American Fairs and Festivals, the company headed by the operator of the OC Marketplace, that open-air, don't-call-us-a-swap-meet shopping . . . er . . . OK . . . experience that takes place weekends on the fairgrounds--except when the OC Fair is running.

At one point, AFF was the leading contender to partner with the city of Costa Mesa to purchase the fairgrounds as part of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's everything-must-go sale.

For reasons no one has explained, AFF was later dropped in favor of Facilities Management West, the city's current partner is what appeared a couple weeks ago to be pretty much a done deal.

Some have speculated Mayor Allan Mansoor intervened on behalf of Facilities Management West in exchange for contributions to his campaign for a state Assembly seat.

Da Gov has signed off on the deal, and all that stands in the way of completion are more down thumbs than up ones in the state Legislature, where the Latino caucus seemed poised to torpedo the deal due to the Mansoor-led effort to deem Costa Mesa a "rule of law" city.

That threat vanished faster than census jobs.

Now, in a letter dated Aug. 4 from Raul A. Salinas of Adrono Yoss Alvarado & Smith, the Los Angeles law firm representing AFF, to Costa Mesa City Manager Allan Roeder, the city's deal with Facilities Management West is officially contested.

In response to the City's request for proposal dated April 7, 2010 ("RFP"), our client submitted a Proposal that satisfied all of the City's Objectives and requirements as requested in the RFP. However, the City elected to enter into an exclusive negotiating agreement with Facilities Management West ("FMW") and rejected AFF's Proposal. In doing so, it is our contention that the City acted improperly by failing to follow its own criteria and setting its stated Objectives aside during the RFP process. As such, we intend to protest this decision as unfair and procedurally flawed.

Salinas contends Facilities Management West did not meet the objectives laid out by the city--and he uses many grave concerns Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach has with the deal as ammo.

The lawyer further accuses the city of showing favoritism to AFF's competitor, giving Facilities Management West "an unfair advantage." He also claims the lease agreement violates the California Environmental Quality Act.

The appeal comes hot on the heels of a hail Mary pass by Orange County Fair Board members asking to once again be considered as potential buyers of the 150-acre property.

Schwarzenegger previously shoved the state appointees aside because of the conflict-of-interest that poses--or, at least, appears to pose.

The city is scheduled to update the public on what in blazes is going on at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Costa Mesa City Hall, which is directly across the street from you-know-what.


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