The California Department of Food and Agriculture is investigating a complaint that a representative of the 2016 Kern County Fair falsified a document to allow a child to sell a pig that didn't meet the fair's weight requirements.
If true, the alleged deception undermines the credibility of the fair's junior livestock auction, which brought in nearly $3 million this year; that total is the highest of any fair in the state, Kern County Fair CEO Mike Olcott said at a board of directors meeting Monday.
The complaint also raises the question of whether the child was given special consideration over others who were disqualified because their animals didn't make weight.
"The community needs answers," said Aaron Blinn, president of Advocates for Fair Reform, a group formed in 2014 by teachers, parents and others in the livestock community after a number of clashes with the fair board and management over rules, communication and a perceived lack of transparency.
Documents obtained by The Californian on Monday show the weight of the pig in question shifting back and forth over a six-day period. The pig registered 208 pounds on Sept. 23, the day of the official weigh-in, when children learn whether their animal qualifies for auction.
The next document shows the 208 crossed out and an entry of 215 — the minimum weight requirement — written beside it. The final document, the buyer's certificate, shows the 215 entry crossed out and 208 written above it. The purchase price was also altered to reflect the lower weight.
The buyer was the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation, otherwise known as Buyer No. 9, the philanthropic group that buys most of the fair's animals and donates the meat to local food banks.
The fair allows children to bring more than one animal to the annual competition of showmanship, but the child may sell only one animal per breed at auction. According to the 2016 Kern County Fair Livestock rule book, the fair does have discretion to allow students to participate in the auction even if the animal doesn't meet weight requirements. However, the documents don't reflect that the weight rule was waived, just that the weight entries were changed.
Michele Dias, legal counsel for the CDFA in Sacramento, was at the board meeting Monday and present when the directors adjourned to discuss a personnel issue in closed session. It was not clear from the agenda whether the personnel issue and weight matter were related.
Several minutes later, when the meeting resumed before the public, Chairman Cesar Chavez said the board took no action during closed session.
Dias confirmed after the meeting the CDFA is investigating the complaint.
Olcott was in a meeting following the board of directors session and couldn't be reached for comment.