The Great Fairgrounds Swindle: How Allan Mansoor sold us all out to his Campaign Contributors.




(First of a series, not necessarily chronological, attempting to examine and explain just how we Orange County citizens got shafted so badly, and if there’s anything we can still do to keep control of our Fairgrounds.)

Judases Of The OC Fairgrounds:
Dick Ackerman and Allan Mansoor.

All citizens of Costa Mesa, Garden Grove, Fountain Valley and Westminster need to read and digest this story before you go out and vote in November:  Assembly candidate Allan Mansoor will continue to distract us with divisive and pointless anti-immigrant gestures, while with the other hand he gives away public control of our precious Fairgrounds for 6,000 pieces of silver. Is this the kind of representation we want in Sacramento?  Not me.

1. Forced to return $8000 in tainted contributions

On June 22, just as we were all trying to figure out how Facilities Management West (FMW) had managed to beat out the much public-friendlier American Fairs and Festivals to be Costa Mesa’s “partner” in purchasing the Fairgrounds, the Register reported that Mansoor was forced to return nearly $8000 in contributions from donors who had business before the Council that Mansoor intended to vote on.  Nearly $6000 of that was from FMW parties and their thinly concealed front groups, who were negotiating to finance and operate the Fairgrounds.  (The other $2000 was from Segerstrom, not Fairgrounds-related.)

You see, Costa Mesa City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow had informed the dimwitted Mayor that he could not vote on matters involving these parties when they came before the council (and she had to be alerted to this conflict by vigilant anonymous citizens) but she also told him, incorrectly, that if he just gave back the donations he could go ahead and vote.

So he reluctantly gave that money back, and all this happened over two months earlier, April 13.  Why we were just now finding out about it in late June is another mystery; possibly it was thanks to the same vigilant anonymous citizens.  But why it came to a head on April 13 is clearer – a special study session on the Fairgrounds sale was coming up the next day!

2. What Allan did for his paymasters

The story of the Great Fairgrounds Swindle is long and convoluted;  so much of it happened behind closed doors and in darkened rooms; more of what happened comes to light every day, and we will be sharing what we learn with you over the coming weeks and months.  It is a story of tireless activism betrayed,  and of how in a few weeks we went from what seemed like a perfect solution with American Fairs and Festivals offering everything the public wanted, then somehow suddenly ended up in a 55-Year marriage with arrogant profiteers Facilities Management West, which, as Reggie Mundekis documents in her pithily titled dissection of the deal, “Can’t Get Any Worse.” (for now, click on that link for sure if you want to see what we are so upset about!)

One thing we are certain of is that Mayor Mansoor played an indispensable role during the months of April through June, in steering the deal away from American Fairs to his contributors FMW.  In future installments we’ll look more closely at:

  • Allan’s constant, cryptic, unexplained claims of “concerns” with American Fairs throughout the spring, and his lone vote against them at the May 10 meeting;
  • Allan’s insistence May 4 on naming three new unpaid consultants (including the indescribably problematic Jim Righeimer) who were obvious FMW shills;
  • The shameless behavior of these consultants throughout early May, functioning as spies for FMW and informing them of every detail of the supposedly confidential negotiations with American Fairs, thus sabotaging them;
  • How Allan managed to turn a majority of the Council around to backing FMW on May 18, and closed the rotten deal on June 22.

The Mayor may have limited abilities, but for Facilities Management West he turned out to be a very wise investment.

3. Wait  – he gave the money back, so what’s the big deal?

Good question, I thought the same thing at first.  But let us count the ways it’s still wrong:

  1. The relevant ordinance is Costa Mesa Municipal Code 2-68G, which states he can’t vote on an issue affecting the financial interests of anyone who’s contributed $250 or more to him, for one year. It says nothing about whether you give the money back or not.  So he violated that law.  (Hey – didn’t he just declare Costa Mesa a “Rule of Law City?”)  But maybe it’s a dumb law, too broadly written, and not to be taken literally?  Nope, the law makes sense because:
  2. Even if he did give back the contributions after a period of time, they were still essentially an interest-free loan – a great thing for a campaign to get; and he had at least 2-3 thousand of this money for over six months.
  3. As anyone who’s raised money for a campaign knows, the earlier you get money the easier it is to keep raising money;  so again, that extra 2-3 thousand early on REALLY helped!
  4. Does anyone seriously think that these donations won’t re-appear in the coming months, from the same sources, when he really needs them?  It’s just as though Allan said, “Here, hold this dough for me for a few minutes, I’ve gotta go vote.” (Rest assured my research team will be watching his finance reports like a hawk till November.)
  5. This is a pattern with Allan.  I’ve learned of several other cases similar to the one of Jeff Matthews, who after donating several thousand dollars to the Mayor’s campaign, was gratefully appointed to the Parks Commission.  It could be Allan is a political sociopath who sees nothing wrong with this, just like Huntington Beach’s legendary Dave Garofalo or Chicago’s f-ng golden Rod Blagojevich.  If so, it’s good to know that now before we send him to Sacramento.
  6. And in most striking contrast is this:  Allan approached OC Marketplace owner Jeff Teller (a Republican) who was also part of the American Fairs and Festivals consortium, and asked him for a donation.  Jeff “respectfully refused,” protesting that his issues would be coming before the Council and create a conflict of interest for both of them.  Hm.  Notice that Allan soon after voted AGAINST American Fairs – the only councilmember to do so on May 10.

City Attorney Barlow didn’t think of any of this when she advised Allan to give the money back and go ahead and vote – or at least she didn’t think much of it.  (She is a nice lady who is very much a friendly member of the gang who put this deal together.  I’m told that she regularly sings karaoke at Skosh Monahan, the pub where the final touches of this rotten deal were sketched out on a cocktail napkin.)

4. Why pick on poor little Allan Mansoor?

That’s sort of a good question, given that he is a relatively minor player in the overall Great Fairgrounds Swindle.  We pick on Mansoor for at least three reasons:

  1. For much of the year he masqueraded as a great champion of public, local control of the Fairgrounds, so his final crucial support of the group that offers none of that is a grand betrayal.
  2. He’s running for higher office, which at least gives us one little thing we can do about all this, which is not vote for him.
  3. And of course because he is an inveterate, dyed-in-the-wool, race demagogue and bully.

But in the larger picture of the Fairgrounds Swindle, Allan Mansoor is just another unprincipled, ambitious tool, no better or worse than fellow bad actors Gary Monahan, Eric Bever, Dick Ackerman, Dave Ellis, Dale Dykema, and many others.

The real villains are Facilities Management West.
Read the next two harrowing chapters of The Great Fairgrounds Swindle,
“Meet the Pirates!”
“Threats, Bribes, and Videotape.”

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.