FMW: OC Fairgrounds Sales Process Was Legal

Facilities Management West: OC Fairgrounds sales process was legal, proper, open and impartial; 'It was by the book.'

Facilities Management West, winning bidder for the OC Fairgrounds, urged the Fourth District Court of Appeals to uphold a Superior Court ruling that legal challenges to the sale have no probability of success on their merits.

In a brief filed Wednesday afternoon, FMW also detailed the facts that the sale had been authorized by a 113 to 3 vote of the Legislature to address the State's fiscal crisis and that the State's competitive bidding sales process was open, fair and impartial, and in full compliance with the law. The sale is being challenged by the fairgrounds' swap meet operator and an apartment developer, both three-time losing bidders.

"The brief addresses each of the challenger's legal claims and explains why they all have absolutely no merit," said Tom Gibbs, FMW's lead trial counsel. "The process was by the book, and FMW's bid was the most lucrative for the state, offering the highest and most certain return."

Appellate court justices are expected to hear arguments in early March. The hearing had been delayed for 30 days to give new Gov. Brown time to review the litigation. Guy Lemmon, spokesman for FMW, said he was encouraged that the governor apparently recognizes the fundamental differences between the sale and mandatory lease-back of state office buildings - which the Governor opposes - and a OC fairground sale that eases the state out of the fair and entertainment business and leaves it to local communities to keep fairs going.

"We believe the sale provides important benefits to the state, county and city during the fiscal crisis," Lemmon said. "It provides needed revenue to the state and local governments, and assures that our fairgrounds will be saved, protected and improved for future generations." Lemmon said that fairgrounds ownership by local multigenerational families is a uniquely Orange County entrepreneurial solution to a public policy dilemma that assures long-term well-financed local control and operation of an important community asset in the public interest.

"Think about the OC Performing Arts Center, our largest regional open space reserves,and some of our major high capacity roads - created, maintained and operated without government funds," Lemmon said. The sale also is a constructive response to the Governor's new budget proposal that eliminates general fund support for all fairs, and challenges the state bureaucracy to create new ways for fairs to operate without general taxpayer support, Lemmon said.

Among the benefits of a Orange County Fairgrounds sale to FMW, Lemmon said:

- The company will protect and continue operating the OC Fair and Centennial Farm and is committed to continuing the swap meet, equestrian center and other uses.

- It will make multi-million dollar facility improvements that would not likely be possible under continued state ownership due to the ongoing budget crisis.

- FMW will hire the 81 full-time state fair employees, and reinstate a 4.6 percent pay cut instituted by the state last year.

- The company hired Becky Bailey-Findley, the OC Fairgrounds CEO from 1994-2008 to lead the transition to private ownership.

The sale was put out to bid three times during the past 13 months, and all potential serious bidders have had ample information, time and opportunity to make their best offer, Lemmon said.


Categories: State or Provincial Government

Tags: Facilities Management West, OC Fairground Sale, Orange County Fairgrounds

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Bill Rams
Press Contact, Facilities Management West