20191022-bc-fair

The Kern County Fair Board held its first public meeting on Monday since a State Auditor's report detailing financial misconduct was linked to the fair.

A meeting of the Kern County Fair Board of Directors ended in a shouting match when board members refused to answer questions posed by members of the public.

In the first public meeting since the Kern County District Attorney opened an investigation into alleged financial misconduct and misuse of state resources at the fair, the directors mostly acted as if it was business as usual.

That is until the meeting drew to a conclusion, and Chairwoman Blodgie Rodriguez tried to adjourn as several audience members shouted for more time to make comments.

The audience pointed out that the agenda said public comments could be made on individual agenda items during the meeting, a stipulation the board did not appear to respect.

“You have given us exactly what people have been complaining about,” audience member Liz Keogh said to the board shortly after the meeting had been adjourned. “You are demonstrating for all of us that you don’t care. It’s disgraceful. You don’t even follow your own rules.”

Most of the directors, along with CEO Mike Olcott, rapidly left the small meeting room at the fair office following the adjournment. Some retreated into Olcott’s office, where they closed the door.

Olcott had previously walked briskly past members of the media, denying requests for comment.

The meeting came at a delicate time for the fair. The DA’s Office initiated its investigation after a state audit that detailed financial and professional misconduct at an unnamed California fair was linked to Kern County.

Several current and former employees of the fair have told The Californian and other media outlets that the audit pertains to Kern County.

Fair employees, along with the board, have not answered questions for weeks about the allegations that the fair mismanaged funds, citing state whistleblower laws.

However, in an aside after the meeting, board member Lucas Espericueta appeared to connect Kern County to the audit.

“The audit didn’t do us any favors,” he said, before exhibiting a knowledge of the audit. He added that the financial misconduct alleged in the audit pertained to less than 1 percent of fair finances, in an apparent reference to the Kern County Fair.

He said shortly afterward that due to the state’s whistleblower rules, he could not comment on fair activity, either generally or as it related to the audit, a line of reasoning followed by the rest of the board.

Both the California State Auditor and the Department of Food and Agriculture – which oversees state fairs - have said they will not reveal the fair in question, citing the whistleblower law.

The audit revealed hundreds of thousands of dollars of credit card purchases without receipts or prepared purchase orders, along with excessive and illegal out-of-state travel and more than $3,000 in wasteful tips and inappropriate alcohol purchases.

In addition, the audit said that employees at the fair in question had worked side jobs while being paid by fair funds. The audit said the employees did so with the direct knowledge of their supervisor on multiple occasions, a claim that has been reiterated by current and former employees.

Around 20 people attended Monday’s meeting, and several spoke on issues unrelated to the audit.

Before tempers flared at the end of the meeting, Rodriguez seemed to congratulate the board on making it through the tumult.

“I would like to thank each of you guys for everything that you guys have done this last fair,” she said to the board. “It was a rough one, and we, as united as a team, we (got) through it.”

You can reach Sam Morgen at 661-395-7415. You may also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.

(22) comments

HeresJohnny

Expect nothing to be done. They'll ride this out until you lose interest and then go back to ripping people off across the board, its the Kern County way.

georgieboy11

You said it. Apathy in Bakersfield has caused much corruption to go unchecked.

Bako4586

Watch ABC 23 news story and how they all duck into an office after the meeting..... wow, just wow.

Bako4586

All the whos who in our corrupt town of Bakersfield on the run!

bakodon

Where are our local representatives!

REMUDA

As I (we) said on Jose Gaspar's report, again I offer:

'Stephen said: "I’m shocked, . . . SHOCKED . . . !" I agree as well . . . and find that $3 (@ every stand) is WAY too much for a small plastic water in such heat. I do like the foot washes though . . .

Now for the big scandals . . . "call in the usual suspects . . . !" . . . '

(And it appears the "usual suspects" . . . remain on the board . . . )

Django

Time to take a closer look at FICMAT. They work through KCSOS.

Bushwikker

I'm assuming this Board is subject to the Brown Act, which means the D.A. should also investigate violations of this law in addition to the financial corruption.

clsoca

The corruption and silence continues. I wonder if the Grand Jury is going to get involve and issue indictments. Board members can't rely on the whistle blower regulations in refusing to answer questions from a Grand Jury. Seems appropriate they get involved.

PedoHater

Meanwhile McClowns re-election is funded by Russian Blavatnick

BakoMark

Wonder how many of them are anti-Trumpers?

Steelerman

The fact that Trump has nothing to do with this issue is obviously lost on you. I'm surprised you did not parrot Trump's more popular spastic outbursts like, "It's all a witch hunt," or "It's a hoax" for no apparent reason. Hahaha

Nevermind

None

Django

Probably none. Their behavior seems rather Trump like.

Moardeeb

You kidding me, they're going taking a page right out of Trump's playbook. Stonewalling!

Veritas

Blodgie is a hardcore liberal Democrat. Maybe the Dems are now adopting Trumpian tactics. Can’t beat join ‘me? Naaa, they’re just corrupt too...

PedoHater

Uhhhh she is a trumpster

Veritas

You are just another Troll who likes to say stupid things almost every time you comment. She is a hardcore liberal democrat so in this case that makes her a dumpster. And I am not a Trumpite which you must be.

Patricia Edna

This is inexcusable. They should all be replaced.

yorkies2014

Kern County Fair director Mark Salvaggio, whose advocacy of reform and transparency sometimes placed him at odds with fellow directors and fair management, was removed from the fair board Friday afternoon by a deputy to Gov. Jerry Brown, the same man who appointed him to the seat in 2012……. And then ………Bakersfield Realtor Blodgie Rodriguez, 46, has been appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to the Kern County Fair Board of Directors…… Rodriguez said she isn't replacing former fair board member Mark Salvaggio, whose removal from the board made headlines ………these folks do have their problems… thank god 4 audits and whistleblowers

Athanasios

The comment regarding less than 1% of total expenses was classic. Kind of shows the cavalier attitude, as if they budgeted for it. Folks get fired in the private sector for .001% of expenses. Either you have a policy, controls, and REAL leadership or you don’t.

RefereeB

Arrogance at its best. While I always believe in “innocence until proven guilty,” these cats are taking the low road and these actions will not serve them well.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.