Fair board forms ad hoc committee to help interim manager with 2013 fair; public asked to leave board room again for director “mixer”
Originally printed in the May 9 edition
The new interim general manager of the Humboldt County Fair will be helped “with transitioning into his role” and preparing the upcoming August fair by five members of the 18 member fair board.
At a do-over special meeting Monday night after the board’s regular monthly meeting on April 29 was abruptly cancelled for no stated reason, the 13 out of 18 members present approved forming an ad hoc committee to assist interim manager Richard Conway. The three Ferndalers on the committee, which as an ad hoc committee is not subject to the state’s open meeting laws, are Jeff Farley, Dave Mogni and Duane Martin. The three will be joined by board members Cindy Olsen and Sandy Hanks. All five voted in January against renewing 22-year manager Stuart Titus’s contract.
Board president Tim Renner prior to Monday evening’s meeting said he picked the fair association’s committee chairs for the group. Martin, who has been on the board for just over a year, is not a committee chair, however. Renner said Monday night that the committee was “not 100 percent” made up of committee chairs. Renner said he discussed the formation of the committee before the meeting with the five board members, who he said, agreed to serve. With Renner discussing the formation of the committee with Farley and Olsen — who, along with Renner, are members of a four-member Executive Committee, — a serial meeting was held, which is a violation of the state’s open meeting law.
The Brown Act requires committee business to be discussed and decisions to be made in an open and posted meeting. Renner did not respond to a question about the serial meeting. Several fair board members have been called before the Humboldt County Grand Jury after Olsen stated to former manager Titus in an Executive Committee meeting a year ago that his contract could be in jeopardy if he kept reminding the board about the Brown Act.
In March, the board contracted with the city of Eureka to pay attorney Cyndy Day-Wilson $200 per hour for legal services. In March, she led the board through a Brown Act training session Day-Wilson was present at Monday’s meeting to guide Renner through the proceedings. One member of the public was in attendance — a reporter from The Enterprise. Renner, as he did at the March meeting, made an announcement at the beginning of the meeting asking the “media and the public” to “respect the personal time of the association” when it holds a “private social hour,” where fair business will not be discussed at the meeting’s conclusion.
When this reporter asked if the board was asking the public to leave a public building, Day-Wilson advised Renner that he did not have to answer the public’s question. He chose not to.
Meanwhile, board member Jay Hight said he would personally pay for items listed in the fair’s check register under “Directors Expense.” Most of the items under the expense item include ice, cups, mixer and snacks. Alcohol consumed by directors has not been bought under item. Rather, directors have consumed alcohol left over from purchases made by the fair for its bars during fair time and the directors board room for directors and guests during fair time, according to former manager Titus. Occasionally, director Al Cooper, a beer distributor, will donate a case of beer to the board room refrigerator, as he did Monday night.
In other board member announcements, Farley alleged he was misquoted in last week’s Enterprise when he said that he “never had it happen before in my life” after the sudden announcement by Renner that the meeting was cancelled. “I was repeating something somebody else said,” said Farley, who commended his fellow board members for “doing a great job.” Farley was recorded on tape making the statement.
Farley also gave a report from the Buildings and Grounds committee that he now chairs after the resignation last month of long-time member Ken Christen. He said his committee did a walk through the property and has prioritized items to be done “pre-fair and after-fair.” He commended the “crew down there” and volunteers. I
n fair business, directors approved contracts for racing personnel for the upcoming August race meet. Directors have granted an approximately 50 percent raise to pari-mutuel manager Dominic DiPrinzio, who will now be paid $6,200 for the eight-day race meet. DiPrinzio earlier this year submitted his resignation to the board, in which he stated that the board’s non-renewal of past manager Titus’s contract was one of the reasons he was resigning. DiPrinzio has said that fair board member Dave Mogni offered him a $2,000 increase to rescind his resignation. When asked Monday night why the mutuel manager is receiving a 50 percent raise, Renner hesitated. Interim manager Conway did answer.
“We felt the need to keep the manager for the continuity of the fair during this transition year and made the offer to him,” said Conway. “He accepted.”
Board members also approved contracts for four entertainment acts for a total of $48,000. They include Nerveless Nocks, Inc., a thrill and stunt show circus; Walking with the Lions; IGX, an interactive game experience and Taiko Project, an ensemble of taiko drummers. Mogni, chair of the Marketing and Entertainment committee, gave a report on the agreed-upon theme for this year’s fair: “A Tribute To Agriculture, a Tradition We Treasure.” Duane Martin was appointed to the Marketing Committee.
Mogni also informed the board of a revamped sponsorship program, involving different amounts of admission tickets give to fair sponsors and more sponsorship banners displayed on and around the fairgrounds. Last year, the fair received approximately $80,000 in sponsorship money. Mogni said a sponsorship solicitation brochure will be ready at the end of this week as the fair attempts to seek donations again this year.
Meanwhile, board members reviewed under the consent calendar the fair’s balance sheet. Its reserve remains at approximately 35 percent or $467,163 — the largest reserve in the history of the association. Conway, during the general manager’s portion of the meeting, said the fair is “picking up new sponsors daily,” and remarked on the condition of the grounds.
“The staff is really focusing on maintenance and repairs and cleaning it up, making it look as good as it can,” said Conway. “Everything is moving in a positive direction and I’m really happy the way things are coming together.” Not on the agenda was an earlier proposal to raise building rental and camping fees. Also eliminated from the agenda was a item on board vacancies. Three members resigned from the board after Titus’s contract was not renewed.
(Editor’s note: Enterprise publisher and editor Caroline Titus is married to former HCF manager Stuart Titus.)
Originally appeared in May 9 print edition
If all goes as planned, it’ll be a photo finish between the Humboldt County Fair in Ferndale, competing against its much bigger cousin, the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa, as it appears the two will battle it out before the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) for 2014 and 2015 race dates.
As encouraged at the end of any horse race, however, remember to hold all tickets until the race has been declared official.
A representative of the Humboldt County Fair voted Tuesday at a meeting of the California Authority of Racing Fairs (CARF) to move its 2014 and 2015 dates back to the fair’s original August time frame; request two weeks of non-overlapped racing, taking away one week of racing from the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa and one week of racing at Golden Gate Fields.
A motion by James Morgan, the Bay Area pro bono attorney now representing the Humboldt County Fair, seconded by Janet Lockhart, board president for the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton was supported by all but one of the remaining four members of CARF’s Live Racing Committee. Also attending the meeting but not speaking, were the Humboldt County Fair’s interim General Manager Richard Conway and fair board member Cindy Olsen. Fair board members Dave Mogni, Duane Martin and Jeff Farley listened to the meeting via teleconference.
CARF is a joint powers authority located in Sacramento and represents the common interests of its members, which includes county fairs with live racing, as well as those which operate satellite wagering facilities on their properties. Among its various tasks, CARF acts as the vehicle by which future race dates are presented to the CHRB which has the final say on which entity races, and when. The allocation of exclusive (non-overlapped) race dates is key to the success of a race meeting, as it provides the track with access to all available revenue sources.
When Ferndale conducts racing at the same time as another entity, it does not have access to those sources. Similarly, other entities are reluctant to share revenues they create when Ferndale runs at the same time. Owners and trainers, particularly those with horses valued at higher classifications, desire to race at locations with one-mile tracks, along with turf courses. Ferndale offers neither and normally attracts horses valued at the very bottom of classifications.
Historically, owners and trainers have argued strongly for race dates at a larger venue than Ferndale, because of the more lucrative purse money generated when Del Mar is racing in southern California. Del Mar, in turn, supports a calendar in the north which complements their program. With the exception of 2010, the Humboldt County Fair has always conducted its race meet simultaneously with another racing venue in northern California. Those venues have included the San Joaquin County Fair, Bay Meadows, the Sonoma County Fair and, more recently, Golden Gate Fields.
In 2012, Humboldt elected to move its dates one week later in August, in order to avoid running its first week at the same time as Santa Rosa. CARF has never before supported Humboldt in its efforts to receive non-overlapped dates. Earlier this year, the Sonoma County Fair Board of Directors elected to discontinue its membership with CARF, due to irreconcilable financial differences.
As a result, Santa Rosa will represent itself when it goes before the CHRB in its quest for 2014 and 2015 race dates. According to the motion adopted by CARF on Tuesday, Humboldt will move its dates to August 6-17 in 2014. As part of the proposal, CARF will recommend that ex-member Santa Rosa not be allocated its traditional third week of racing, from August 6-10, and that Golden Gate Fields not be allocated the dates of August 13-17.
When contacted about the CARF decision, Tawny Tesconi, CEO for the Sonoma County Fair, said that Santa Rosa requested from the CHRB two weeks ago its traditional three weeks of racing in 2014 and 2015.
“Since we are no longer a member of CARF, we have already submitted our own calendar proposal,” said Tesconi. When asked about the proposal approval by CARF yesterday, Tesconi was surprised. “CARF has always been supportive of Santa Rosa running more days. It comes as somewhat of a shock that they are now recommending that we run fewer days.”
CARF’s approved proposal did not come without the expectation of certain pushback from other entities expected to join the fray.
“There are strongly held opinions from horseman organizations about the relative merit of running one venue over another,” said Chris Korby, executive director for CARF. “There will be those in the horseman community who have strong feelings about Santa Rosa being a desirable venue. If we make a recommendation to make a change to the 2014 schedule, we need to anticipate that discussion,” said Korby.
Ferndale’s past performance of asking for non-overlapped dates has been routinely rejected by the industry, including CARF, based upon its inability to generate the same level of economic benefits as the much larger and more lucrative tracks elsewhere in California.
“The CHRB does not want controversy,” said Jim Morgan, Ferndale’s representative. “They don’t want fairs to be maverick. There’s no way we can keep from having our horse population decimated by having Santa Rosa running overlap,” said Morgan.
Competition for horses is nothing new to Ferndale, which was overlapped with Santa Rosa when it was a member of CARF, and drew from classifications of horses unique to Ferndale. Now that Santa Rosa is not a member of CARF, however, the issue seems to have somehow reached a critical and controversial mass. But, controversy is nothing new to the Humboldt County Fair. In January 2010, Ferndale won a hotly contested 4-3 vote of the CHRB to race one week not overlapped by another entity. At that time, CARF joined with literally every other racing entity, including then-member Santa Rosa, to oppose Ferndale. In response to that successful vote for Ferndale, CARF and every other segment of the industry put Ferndale back in its traditional place in a 2011 schedule, by overlapping it with Santa Rosa and Golden Gate Fields.
In 2012, Ferndale had to negotiate its own way into an agreement which provided it with a sustainable basis upon which to conduct racing. CARF, which opposed Ferndale’s position, opposition that included then-member Santa Rosa, was not at the table for its smallest member fair. Now, with the departure of Santa Rosa from CARF membership, the tide appears to have changed. The proposal approved by CARF on Tuesday could be seen as controversial by the CHRB, as it will place CARF and its ex-member Santa Rosa at the negotiation table, as they argue for 2014-2015 race dates before the governor-appointed board later this year.
“It seems like we’re pulling the trigger awfully quick,” said Rick Pickering, CEO of the California State Fair. “It’s contrary to the argument that we’ve made for the last 15 years (with regard to Ferndale),” Pickering continued. “It will look to the industry like we’re punishing Santa Rosa for withdrawing from CARF.” CARF’s proposal will next go to the CHRB, which is unlikely to take final action until September. The board will also receive proposals from Santa Rosa, and Golden Gate Fields.
As a public entity, the CHRB will discuss and debate the various proposals at legally-noticed meetings. Those proposals are also vetted and reviewed by other important entities within the racing industry, such as the Thoroughbred Owners of California and the California Thoroughbred Trainers Associations. The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club can also be expected to weigh-in on any proposals submitted to the CHRB. Del Mar’s 10-week racing program is considered an elite racing program, whose status is directly impacted by racing in northern California.
Ferndale’s representative James Morgan was not available for follow-up questions by this issue’s deadline.
Regularly scheduled Fair Board meeting does not happen for reasons that are difficult to understand; proposal is made to give Planning Commission members a refresher course on proper procedures; CalTrans plans to do some kind of work on something or other; Ferndale kids need to step up their truancy efforts.
The Ferndale Report on KHUM 104.7 FM and 104.3 FM
Love small-town news, but can’t read? Larry Trask and Caroline Titus, Editor/Publisher of The Ferndale Enterprise, deconstruct the Victorian Village. Airs live Wednesday afternoons.
Originally appeared in May 2, 2013 print edition
The race was called Monday night before the horses even got out of the gate, so to speak, as the Humboldt County Fair Board Association cancelled its regular monthly meeting for “lack of agenda items.” The abrupt cancellation, announced just when the 7 pm meeting was set to get underway at the fair’s board room, is the first cancellation of the association’s regular monthly meeting in a least 22 years.
Board president Tim Renner was asked by one board member, “Can you explain? “Nope,” said Renner. “We’re adjourned.”
The 15 out of 18 board members present (there are three vacancies) then mingled in small groups and opened up the board room’s bar for drinks.
“Never had it happen before in my life,” said board member Jeff Farley, referring to his years of sitting on public boards.
The agenda for the meeting, posted publicly the week before, had 12 items listed. They included committee reports from the association’s Building and Grounds committee, Marketing and Entertainment and Finance. The Finance Committee, chaired by Clare Bugenig after the resignation of Don Becker, has not had a meeting since the board last met.
When asked last week about a report from the committee when it hasn’t met, Renner told The Enterprise that board member Duane Martin wanted to give an update on a “working budget.” Other items on the agenda under the “consent calendar” included a financial report, correspondence, board vacancies and the annual board of directors dinner. When asked why the subject of board vacancies was listed under the consent calendar, where grouped items are usually approved with one motion, Renner said last week that the listing was a mistake and that the association was discussing what to do with its contracted attorney — the city of Eureka’s head legal counsel. The board has sent invitations out for a May 13 annual dinner at the Scotia Inn. The board has not formally approved the date. As for correspondence, there was none in the board’s packet prepared for the meeting. Renner said no correspondence had been received by the association of note.
Under business items, the board was set to review and perhaps approve an increase in rental rates for various buildings and camping spots. A proposed list of increases was not reviewed by the association’s Finance Committee.
The association’s policy manual states that the committee “determines rentals or charges for the use of all facilities under the control of the association.” The board was also set to discuss selling an association truck.
Absent from Monday’s non-meeting were board members Bugenig, Al Cooper and Dave Mogni. Mogni, however, was present in the parking lot and talking to a handful of board members as they left the meeting. He then joined the remaining board members in the board room. Also absent from the board room was the new interim manager Richard Conway, who remained in the manager’s office. This year’s fair is 97 days away. It it scheduled to open on August 14.
Via the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:
On 3-8-2013, approximately 10:30 a.m. the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office was notified by the Plant Manager of Suddenlink, that an unknown suspect(s) cut the companies Fiber Optic Cable at approximately 12:17 a.m. today. Repair crews were immediately notified of an outage, and when they responded to the underground vault located near Grizzly Bluff Road and Blue Slide Road, Ferndale they discovered the line was intentionally cut and approximately 24 feet of Fiber Optic Cable was stolen. The damaged line caused approximately 1000 customers to lose telephone service including 911, along with internet and cable.
Approximately two hours later service on another Suddenlink Fiber Optic Cable was lost in the Trinidad area. When Suddenlink repair crews arrived at the location of the damage on Scenic Drive, Trinidad near the US 101 southbound onramp, they discovered that line had been cut. Approximately 950 customers were affected by the loss of that line.
There are no suspect(s) at this time. Estimated damage is over $10,000.00. Suddenlink is currently working to repair the damaged lines.
Anyone with information for the Sheriffs Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriffs Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriffs Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.
Mike Downey Sheriff
From the February 28, 2013, print edition of The Ferndale Enterprise
Newly appointed Humboldt County Fair Association Board President Tim Renner confirmed last Thursday that he had been subpoenaed to appear before the Humboldt County Grand Jury. Renner was served with the subpoena on Thursday by a Humboldt County Sheriff Deputy at the fairgrounds. Renner was on the fairgrounds to attend an ad hoc committee meeting in Friendship Square at Mabel’s Kitchen to continue a search for an interim and/or permanent general manager.
From the February 28, 2013, print edition of The Ferndale Enterprise
Monday night’s regular monthly meeting of the Humboldt County Fair Association board was interrupted when fair board director Mel Berti told this newspaper’s editor to stop taking photographs of board members during the meeting.
“It think it’s very rude taking pictures of everybody when we’re trying to concentrate,” said Berti, who was sitting next to director Cindy Olsen. At an earlier fair board meeting this month, Olsen shielded her face with an agenda during the meeting in order not to be photographed. “Protocol says you should not disturb meeting with picture taking during the meeting. The press has got a spot and should be in that spot in the beginning of the meeting until after the meeting.”
From the February 21, 2013, print edition of The Ferndale Enterprise
Concerned about fair
Having lived most of our lives in Humboldt County and having moved to Carlsbad to be near our children 17 months ago, we look forward to our issue of The Ferndale Enterprise each week. Recently, we have been appalled at what we are reading! The Humboldt County Fair (HCF) has been an important part of our lives having my grandfather, Dr. Jos. N.D. Hindley and my uncle, Cecil Jo Hindley serve as managers of the fair for a combined 50-plus years! My parents and our children also dedicated years of employment at the fair.
Fair board meets Monday; Brown Act violations continue with proposed discussion of interim manager position’s salary
From the February 21, 2013, print edition of The Ferndale Enterprise
The Humboldt County Fair Association board of directors will hold its regular monthly meeting Monday night. Among the items listed on an agenda to be discussed is the salary range and benefits of an interim general manager. The board has not renewed 22-year general manager Stuart Titus’ contract. His last day is February 28.
The discussion of pay for an interim general manager has been scheduled for closed session at the conclusion of Monday night’s meeting. It is a violation of the state’s public meeting law — the Ralph M. Brown Act — to discuss proposed compensation in closed session.
“The public is entitled to know and understand how the body is using its resources on the public’s behalf,” said attorney Jim Ewert from the California Newspaper Publishers Association. “And, if the board was able to go into closed session to discuss these matters it would eliminate the public’s ability to oversee what its representatives are doing.”
From the February 14, 2013, print edition of The Ferndale Enterprise
The Humboldt County Fair Association board of directors Monday night voted 16-1 to appoint ten-year board member Tim Renner to the position of interim board president until the end of this year. Renner will fill the spot left vacant by the resignation last week of 17-year board member John Burger. Board member Wayne Wilson was the lone dissenting vote.
The board also voted 16-1, with Wilson dissenting for a second time, to move member Cindy Olsen to the position of first vice-president and member Jeff Farley to second vice-president. The two will join past president Jay Hight and Renner on the fair board’s executive committee.