Orange County District Attorney

Related Documents: DA 2011 Report on Fairgrounds

Posted: Tuesday, December 2, 2014 6:00 am | Updated: 9:38 am, Thu Dec 4, 2014.

District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has once again cleared the Orange County Fair Board’s former Republican majority of any criminal wrongdoing relating to their efforts in 2009 to privatize the 163-acre fairgrounds in Costa Mesa.

The 8-page report – nearly a year in the making – has already drawn fire from fairground activists who slammed the DA probe as a woefully inadequate review that took too long, didn’t interview key witnesses and got facts wrong.

Former board members argue the current DA review, just like the 2011 probe, confirms what they always felt: they may have acted sloppily but didn’t’ intentionally break the law or force a privatization to benefit themselves.

Meanwhile, OC Fairgrounds Chairwoman Ashleigh Aitken characterized the report as the end of a chapter in fair history saying, “we hope to move beyond the events of the past.”

“We would like to thank the OCDA’s office for their work in completing this final investigation, and the volunteers of the Fair Sale Review Committee for their dedication to this process,” said Aitken in a statement released by the fairgrounds.

District attorney officials declined to discuss their report.

The report again cleared former state Senator Dick Ackerman of allegations he illegally lobbied state legislators in 2009 on behalf of the Fair Board. State Senator Lou Correa and former State Assemblyman Jose Solorio acknowledged meeting with Ackerman, but said they couldn’t recall what he talked to them about when DA investigators interviewed them years after the initial allegations were made.

The DA review also backs up the most questionable action taken by the former Fair Board: paying out more than $150,000 in lobbying, legal and appraisal contracts without any kind of public vote for those actions.

According to the DA’s report, Ackerman’s law firm – Nossaman LLP – was retained on behalf of the Fair Board by LSA Associates, which had a contract going back a decade with the fairgrounds contracting agency – the California Construction Authority.

Yet according to the report submitted by the Fair Sale Review Committee that triggered the DA review, “Frank Haselton, (December 2012 telephone interview with Mike McCrary) LSA consultant, stated he was contacted by (former Fair CEO) Steve Beazley who asked that he sub-contract with Ackerman of Nossaman LLP. He agreed and received Nossaman’s billings, which were paid by LSA, and then LSA billed the 32nd DAA (through CCA) [The California Construction Authority].”

DA officials also state that because the contract was to assist with the implementation of the OC Fair’s Master Plan Project, the lobbying contracts were apparently legal.

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