That Damn Padilla: Fired Fair Board Member talks to Norberto instead of Vern.


Padilla with fellow Board member Mary Young during that other scandal, the 2008 one over concert tickets.

Well, Dave Padilla – the only Orange County Fair Board member and Schwarzenegger appointee to vociferously oppose the sale of our Fairgrounds from (nearly) the very beginning of this Swindle, and who was fired without explanation last month just before we found out the Board was negotiating with the Facilities Management West sharks to be in on the deal – HAD promised me an interview with him.

But now the damn guy  has gone to Voice of OC hotshot Norberto Santana instead.  Still the interview is pretty great, and you should definitely go read the whole thing, after I excerpt a few gems.

On the speculative question of what is driving Arnold to sell the property to Facilities Management West this month come hell or high water:

“I suspect, the governor is looking for any bold policy victory he can get to bolster his legacy and look like he has been financially responsible. Rightly or wrongly, the governor is perceived to have failed miserably on nearly every front, thus his low 20 percent approval rating. So he is desperately looking for actions that look bold, that he can point to and say he did something. While the sale of the Fairgrounds may look like a bold move, it does nothing to solve the budget crisis. The sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds will barely pay the interest on one day of the state debt. Let me repeat that, the sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds will barely pay the interest on one day of the state debt. And for that, we are losing our fair? …

“… Given that the deal makes no financial sense for the state, and given that the community is overwhelmingly opposed to the sale, many have searched throughout the process to find the governor’s motivation. The focus of the “why” speculation now seems to be on financial payoff to his political supporters, as former OC Fair trustee Frank Barbaro and others have alluded to.  And, given all we know now, there certainly is a pattern of events to justify that suspicion…”

On some of his reasons for opposing the swindle:

“…If the property is sold, the OC Fair will be gone, never to return, and a 120-year cultural institution will eventually no longer exist. The change will not be immediate, but done slowly over a few years, while the developer is strategizing how to maximize profits. The finances of the sale deal give them no choice but to make drastic changes to service the debt. Five years from now, the OC Fair will be a distant memory…”

A rogue's gallery of Schwarzenegger Fair Board appointees: From left, clockwise: Dale Dykema, David Ellis, Joyce Tucker and Gary Hayakawa.

On the phony “investigation” – a typical whitewash really by our do-nothing D.A. Tony Rackauckas – into the dealings of the Fair Board:

“… Here I was, the only member of the Fair Board to oppose the sale and to speak out against the sale. I was the only member who did not join the nonprofit that was attempting to buy the property. And yet, the District Attorney’s Office never contacted me. They didn’t write, they didn’t email, they didn’t call. If the District Attorney’s Office was seriously investigating this deal, you would think that they would have contacted the one board member who had questioned this deal from the beginning…”

On the interesting mystery of who really owns the title to the Fairgrounds:

“…According to the Orange County Clerk’s Office, neither the state, nor any other entity has done a title search. The only effort to locate the title was done by Sandy Genis from the OC Fair Preservation Society. She has been to the Clerk’s Office on numerous occasions and has yet to locate the title deed. So how does the governor plan to complete a 14-day escrow, assuming the current injunction is lifted, if no official title can be verified? Who will issue the title insurance? There is an obvious effort to take short cuts to complete the sale no matter what before the governor leaves office…”

On the prospect of serious investigations into his former colleagues’ malfeasance:

“…The first thing needed is stop this sale. Period. Once the OC Fair is saved, then there will be time to unravel how this terrible situation happened and what kind of governance reforms need to be enacted to make sure this never happens again.”

Make sure to read the rest here;  Norberto pretty much asked most of the questions I would have, with the exception of some details regarding the Board’s behavior, and on that Dave’s right, those questions can wait till after we’re safely within the Jerry Brown Era.


Senator Tom Harman with Board members Mary Young and Dave Ellis

We have two commenters who are basically Board apologists who will show up no doubt to trash Padilla as they always do – “The Devil’s Right Hand” who likes to say that the Board is much more “stupid” than malignant or corrupt, and that all our speculation is irresponsible;  and “Bootsie” who just believes that the Board is the Cat’s Pajamas and they should have just been allowed to buy the property themselves at the fire sale price of $30 million.

Those two commenters will be here any minute to say (as they have been elsewhere) that the above cannot be Padilla’s words, that it has to be ghostwritten by Sandy Genis or someone else because Padilla is supposedly dumb and inarticulate not to mention a bitter sore loser.  Well, I have spent time with Dave and he is a lot smarter than these anonymous stone-throwers think, and this IS how he talks and writes.

And it’s no coincidence that Dave’s impressions and conjectures are similar to those of us on the OC Fairgrounds Preservation Society – it’s merely a result of intelligent public-minded people observing the same phenomena.

Many things are gonna come out a week from now – Wednesday the 15th – at the next court hearing on this Swindle.  There are probably a lot of things Dave is keeping under his hat until he’s asked to testify.  Until then, I’m going to concentrate on Jose Solorio’s AB 35 – another tool for slowing down the sale till Arnold’s gone – and what we can all do to make sure it passes quickly without getting watered down.  Stay tuned!

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.