Friday, February 25, 2011 at 8:30 a.m.
As the talks of a sale of the 150-acre fairgrounds in Costa Mesa continue, opponents are curious about the $100 million price tag. Is it too high? Too low? Was it arbitrarily pulled from the sky by some member of the OC Fair and Event Center (OCFEC, which administers the fairgrounds) Board of Directors?
According to documents obtained by the Weekly, in 2009, three separate payments were made by the OCFEC to Richard A. Fuller Consulting for "appraisal services," totaling $36,856.38. And yet, no exact fairgrounds value ever materialized.
Despite repeated requests from the public and the OC Fairgrounds Preservation Society, the Fair Board continues to deny and/or ignore the appraisal ever happened. The documents indicate otherwise.
Paper trails can be one nasty pest.
On Thursday morning, Sandy Genis--a former Costa Mesa mayor and president of the OCFPS--and Lisa Sabo, a trainer from the Equestrian Center, both displayed placards to the Fair Board, detailing the payments made for the appraisal services. Sabo played audio of Dr. Steven Beazley, the president and CEO for the OCFEC, declining that an appraisal ever happened. Something must have come of all that money spent.
Why does the appraisal matter? If the fairgrounds sale is to go through, it is supposed to go to the highest bidder. Right now, that bidder is Facilities Management West and its $100 million offer. The money from the sale would go to the state and be directed toward the deficit. In that case, the higher the price tag, the better.
The outspoken opponents of the fairgrounds sale don't want the appraisal number to expedite the sale, instead, to prove the operations of the Fair Board haven't been in the best interest of the fairgrounds' true owner--the taxpayers.
As the Voice of OC reported
, contact between OCFEC and the Newport Beach-based consulting firm occurred before the sale was even authorized on July 2, 2009. The first payment was a $5,000 retainer fee with the firm.
At the Jan. 27, 2011, Fair Board meeting, Genis made a public-records request of the appraisal. To date, nothing resembling a well-researched, unbiased figure has come out.
In her address to the Fair Board on Thursday morning, Sabo's comments in regard to the denial of an appraisal despite the paper trail cut to the heart of two of the public's primary concerns.
"You've lost the public trust," she said. "What [are] you hiding?"